December 4th, 1997: NBA suspends former Golden State Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell for 1 year for attacking coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Latrell Fontaine Sprewell is a former NBA star who played for the Golden State Warriors, the New York Knicks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was born on September 8, 1970 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended Washington High School in Milwaukee where he played basketball. Between 1988 to 1990, he played with the Three Rivers Community College’s Raiders Basketball Team in Missouri and then from 1990 to 1992 he played with the University of Alabama, alongside future NBA stars Robert Horry, Jason Caffey and James Robinson. In the 1992 NBA Draft, he was selected 24th by the Golden State Warriors. During his rookie season with the Warriors, he started in 69 out of 77 games and averaged 15.4 points per game. He worked consistently to improve his performance over the next few years, and became the leading scorer for his team during the Western Conference All-Star team between 1994 to 1997.
Despite his popularity on the team, his teammates were vary of him because he had no control over his temper. During a practice game in 1995, he fought with his teammate Jerome Kersey, wanting to attack him with a large block of lumber and even threatening to bring a gun. Earlier in 1993, he had a fight with another teammate Bryon Houston. A major incident took place in December 1997, when he attacked his coach P. J. Carlesimo for yelling at him during practice. Sprewell grabbed Carlesimo by the throat and dragged him for 10 seconds, before his teammates intervened. Later, he attacked Carlesimo again, this time landing a heavy blow on his cheek.
Latrell Sprewell was suspended for 10 games without pay, but the public were very angry and demanded stricter justice. As a result, the Warriors voided his remaining contract (worth $23.7 million over three years) and the NBA suspended him for one year. Sprewell contested the decision in front of the arbitration committee and his sentence was reduced to a suspension for the remaining 68 games of the season. He was also put under three months of house arrest, after being charged with reckless driving in an incident that injured two people.
The 1999 NBA season was a lockout, and did not begin until February so Sprewell did not get back on the court until then. He was then traded to the New York Knicks with whom he played 37 games that season. The Knicks narrowly made it to the NBA finals that season after defeating the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and finally the Indiana Pacers, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals. Sprewell had a good season though, and was featured on the cover of SLAM magazine. The Knicks extended his contract for 5 years at $62 million. He was selected to the All-Star team in 2001. In 2002, he returned at the start of the season with a broken hand and was fined $250,000 for not reporting the incident to the team management. In 2004, he was offered a 3 year, $21 million contract by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He refused the contract, stating that it was too low and spent the remainder of his season with the Knicks. He was also offered contracts by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs but refused both, choosing to remain a free agent.
Latrell Sprewell has had several legal and financial troubles. In 2006, a woman claimed that Sprewell tried to strangle her while she was with him on his yacht, although the incident was never proven. In 2007, he was sued by his girlfriend for ending their relationship contract, and claimed that he had agreed to support her and their four children. He ran into money problems and had to auction off his yacht for $856,000 after defaulting on his mortgage payments, and one of his mansions was foreclosed.