Latrell Sprewell had an enormous upside to his career. At one point, there were even a few mentions of Sprewell being the “next Jordan”.
That sounds laughable now, yes, but back in the early to mid-90s, this was a fact. By his second season, Sprewell was already averaging 21.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.
It was more than just the numbers for Sprewell. His slashing style to the hoop definitely excited fans.
On the outside, things appeared to be great for Sprewell, but on the inside, things weren't so good.
Sprewell suffered from anger problems, and this was something he had a hard time controlling.
First, in 1993, Sprewell got into a fight with teammate Bryon Houston at practice.
Now, getting into a fight with a teammate during practice isn't uncommon. This happens a lot, since everyone is competing hard, and wanting to prove their worth.
What is uncommon to happen with a teammate, is what Sprewell did next, in 1995.
The team was split up, playing a practice game, when Sprewell got in a fight with teammate Jerome Kersey.
The fight wasn't going in Sprewell's favor, so he left and came back with a large block of lumber.
Sprewell then attacked Kersey with the block of lumber as teammates frantically tried to break it up.
It would get worse for Sprewell. After being separated from Kersey, Sprewell threatened to bring a gun to practice.
Sprewell's temper would reach an all-time high on December 1, 1997, during practice.
The team was practicing some passing drills when Warriors coach, P.J. Carlesimo noticed Sprewell wasn't putting in any effort.
“Put a little mustard on those passes,” Carlesimo said to Sprewell.
Sprewell responded to Carlesimo by saying, “I don't want to hear it today.”
Carlesimo then approached Sprewell. The other Warriors players told Carlesimo to leave Sprewell alone, but he didn't listen.
Sprewell gave one last warning to his coach by saying, “Don't come up on me, don't come up on me.”
Once again, Carlesimo did not listen, and he paid the price. Sprewell grabbed Carlesimo around his throat as he threatened to kill him.
Sprewell dragged Carlesimo on the ground for about ten seconds before his teammates finally pulled him off.
Sprewell would leave the practice but return About 20 minutes later. As soon as he returned, he attacked Carlesimo by punching him in the face.
His teammates would pull him off again and this time, Sprewell left for good.
Later, when questioned about the incident, Sprewell denied punching him on his return, but in either case, the damage was done.
After the story broke, the first punishment handed to Sprewell was from the Warriors, and it was surprisingly mild. Sprewell was suspended for 10 games.
Two days later, the Warriors terminated Sprewell's four-year, $32 million contract, which had nearly three years and about $25 million remaining.
NBA commissioner David Stern then suspended him for one year. Sprewell would fight the suspension and get it reduced to 68 games.
The choking incident also cost Sprewell his endorsement deal with Converse.
While waiting for his suspension to be reduced, Sprewell found himself in trouble with the law.
Sprewell was charged with reckless driving for speeding (90-miles-per-hour) and getting into an accident that injured two people. He spent three months under house arrest as part of a no-contest plea.
The actions of Sprewell put a stain on the league's image. It had everyone talking, including Michael Jordan.
“I can’t fathom the idea of choking a coach by no means no matter what he says,” Jordan said. “You gotta walk away. I have a conversation with a higher being, higher position person in that organization to voice my opinions about this coach, but the problem is that he (Sprewell) acted, and he has to pay a penalty for that.”
Sprewell's career all but seemed over, until the Warriors traded him to the New York Knicks in 1999. This was a beginning for Sprewell, and he looked to make the most of it.
The 1999 NBA season was shortened to 50 games because of the lockout. Sprewell played 37 games and played well off the Knicks' bench.
For the 1998-99 season, Sprewell averaged 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
The Knicks finished the season with a 27-23 record, which put them in eighth place.
In the playoffs, Sprewell and the Knicks stepped up their game. First, the 8th seed Knicks upset their rivals, the number one seed Miami Heat, 3-2.
The Knicks would sweep the Atlanta Hawks in the semifinals before defeating their other rival, the Indiana Pacers, 4-2 in the conference finals.
The Knicks luck would finally run out in the NBA Finals, when the San Antonio Spurs defeated them, 4-1.
Even in defeat, Sprewell played well. He led the Knicks in scoring for the Finals at 26.0 points per game. He also led the entire playoffs in total points scored with 407.
Sprewell would play four more years in New York before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Sprewell's time in New York didn't go unblemished.
Before the 2002-03 season, Sprewell entered training camp with a broken hand. He said the injury occurred when he slipped on his yacht.
The Knicks fined him $250,000 for failing to report the incident to them.
Sprewell turned around and sued the New York Post, which first published the story.
The New York Post claimed Sprewell broke his hand in a fight. Sprewell lost the lawsuit against the New York Post.
In his first year with the Timberwolves, Sprewell joined Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell to become the league's highest-scoring trio.
The Timberwolves finished the season with a 58–24 record, making them the top seed in the West.
Sprewell helped lead the Timberwolves to their first and only Western Conference Finals, but they'd ultimately fall to the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2.
What happened next was the downfall of Sprewell's career. On October 31, 2004, the Timberwolves offered Sprewell a three-year, $21 million contract extension.
This offer was less than what his current contract was paying him. Sprewell felt insulted by the offer and responded by saying:
For most players, a contract extension of $21 million for the next three years would have been a good deal. But Sprewell felt his worth was being undervalued.
When asked if he wanted to help the Timberwolves win a championship, Sprewell responded by saying:
“Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here.”
He declined the extension, and the Timberwolves would not offer him another contract.
In the last year of his contract, Sprewell had the worst season of his career. He averaged a career-low 12.8 points per game.
After the season, no team would offer him more than the league minimum. This was something Sprewell wasn't willing to do. He wanted a big payday, so he waited…
Latrell Sprewell would never play in another NBA game. He went through a few legal situations after his NBA career ended.
Sprewell was accused of strangling a woman with who he was having consensual sex on his yacht.
The police would eventually decide not to press charges, and Sprewell would get a restraining order against his accuser.
Sprewell would also get in trouble for not paying his taxes, and he'd be sued for ending a relationship agreement he had with his long-time companion.
Sprewell's tax problems led to his yacht being auctioned off for $856,000 in 2008. That same year his Milwaukee-area home went into foreclosure.
In July 2009, another property of Sprewell's went into foreclosure.
Sprewell made over $100 million during his playing career in the NBA. As of this year, his net worth is only $1 million.
From a rising star to the NBA's ultimate villain, to a player on the road to redemption, to a greedy player who wanted more.
This is how Sprewell will be remembered if people remember him at all. And that's sad since Sprewell's talent was among the best we've ever seen.