Latrell Sprewell was an above-average player in the NBA for most of his career. He was an efficient scorer with a decent amount of assists and rebounds for a shooting guard. But people don’t remember Sprewell for the way he could impact a game, they remember him because of an incident that would tarnish his career forever.
We start in 1992, and Sprewell is a rookie playing for the Golden State Warriors and puts up an above-average stat line for his 1st season as a pro and made the All-Rookie 2nd team. But the following season, Latrell lifted off. He averaged 21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. He was named an All-Star, and was put in the All-NBA 1st and All-Defensive 2nd teams respectively. Sprewell led the Warriors to 50 wins, but they lost to Phoenix in the 1st round. These achievements would ultimately be the highlights of his career.
In the 1994-95 season, Latrell’s numbers dipped slightly but he was still awarded an All-Star selection, the Warriors would fall even harder as they finished the season with a measly 26 wins. Sprewell, despite putting up good numbers for the next three years, only featured in the All-Star game once with a career-high in points per game with 24, and the Warriors continued to stay at around 30 wins.
Sprewell was known to have a wild personality during these years with Golden State, and there were multiple occasions where he made ‘questionable’ decisions off court. In 1995, Sprewell got into an altercation with Warriors teammate Jerome Kersey in practice. After a scuffle with Kersey, he left practice and came back carrying a two-by-four, and proceeded to threaten his teammate stating he would return with a firearm. In a separate incident, Sprewell reportedly went missing and didn’t show up to practice which led to the entire organization looking for him.
These were just some of the wild things that happened off the court. But they weren’t nearly as bad as what Latrell did in the 1997-98 season. Golden State hired new coach P.J Carlesimo and right off the bat, Sprewell didn’t get along with the new coach. The pair had multiple verbal arguments, but things escalated on December 1st , 1997. It started with P.J telling Sprewell to “put a little mustard” on a pass. Sprewell fought back telling the coach “I don’t want to hear it today”. Carlesimo then tried to calm things but Sprewell quickly told him “don’t come up on me”. When Carlesimo didn’t abide by Sprewell’s request, Sprewell latched his hands onto Carlesimo’s throat and began choking him in an act of hatred and violence. The incident lasted 10-15 seconds before Warriors players managed to pull Latrell off. Sprewell immediately left practice but shockingly came back 20 minutes later, punching the coach before again being dragged away.
News quickly spread, and Golden State almost instantly voided the rest of Sprewell’s contract (he was due to play 3 more years and was meant to get $23.7 million). Then NBA commissioner, David Stern also slapped a one-year suspension on Sprewell. This would be the farewell to Sprewell’s career with the Warriors. Both decisions were overturned however, and Sprewell got his money from Golden State despite never playing with them again, and the ban only lasted 68 games.
Seemingly Latrell Sprewell would never be the same player again and was a shell of his former self. He continued to play in the NBA for the next seven years for both the Knicks and Timberwolves. He could’ve played an extra three years for Minnesota, but Sprewell turned down a three year, $21 million contract extension (which was a bit overpriced considering career-low numbers), stating he had a “family to feed”. Latrell Sprewell never played in the NBA again.
He had the potential to be an absolute star in the NBA, but with his ignorance and temper, he failed to leave an amazing legacy. Unfortunately, Sprewell is more known for his outbursts and unsportsmanlike behavior instead of his incredible playing ability. In recent times, Sprewell’s home and yacht have been repossessed, he failed to pay $3 million in taxes, and reportedly is only worth $50,000 and lives in a rental. Sprewell had one of the biggest falls from grace in the NBA’s history.