|No. 15, 8|
|Date of birth: September 8, 1970|
|Place of birth: Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Height: 6 ft 5 in||Weight: 195 lbs|
|NBA Draft: 1992; Round: 1 / Pick: 24th|
|Selected by the Golden State Warriors|
|Debut: 1992 for the Golden State Warriors|
|Last played: 2005 for the Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Latrell Sprewell at NBA.com|
Latrell Sprewell (born September 8, 1970 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an American former professional basketball player. A 6'5" guard/forward who built his career around his athleticism, versatility, and unrelenting slashing style.
After attending Washington High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sprewell played competitively with the Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri from 1988–1990, and from 1990–1992 with the University of Alabama, where he was a teammate of current NBA player Robert Horry. He was selected 24th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.
Sprewell, nicknamed "Spree", made an immediate impact, starting 69 of the games he played in during his rookie season and averaging 15.4 points per game on his way to an All-Rookie second team selection. He became the first rookie in franchise history to compile 1000 points, 250 assists, 250 rebounds, 100 steals and 50 blocks. At the time he was also third on the all-time list for three-pointers made by a rookie. He would go on to become one of the most exciting young talents in the NBA, most famous for his blazing speed and prowess on fast breaks, which were often punctuated by his signature two-handed tomahawk dunk.
All-Star Years With Golden State
Sprewell broke out and truly made a name for himself during his second season in 1993-94. That year, despite playing without key players Tim Hardaway and Sarunas Marciulionis, he and eventual Rookie of the Year Chris Webber formed the league's most dynamic young duo, and lead the Warriors to a 50-win season and a return to the Playoffs. In the process, Sprewell earned his first All-Star selection (at 23, the youngest Warrior to do so since Jamaal Wilkes), posting 21 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.12 steals per night, and also led all guards with 79 blocks. By season's end, Sprewell was voted onto the All-NBA First Team (a very rare feat for a second-year player), taking over the spot vacated by Michael Jordan's first retirement. He was also named to the All-Defensive second team. Although the Warriors were swept by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Playoffs, the future looked bright for Golden State, with Sprewell, Webber, veteran Chris Mullin, and a returning Tim Hardaway. The team seemed to have nowhere to go but up.
The following season was not as rosy as expected, however. Due to some run-ins with head coach Don Nelson, Webber was traded to the Washington Bullets, and Sprewell's good friend, energy player Billy Owens was also traded away. Sprewell maintained his high level of play, but could not mask his disappointment over the decimation of the promising young core that many foresaw winning a championship sooner than later. Sprewell led the team in scoring again (20.6 ppg), and was voted as starter in the '95 All-Star game, but the team never managed to lift off, and by season's end the Warriors had stumbled to a mediocre 26-56 record, which was the beginning of one of the longest Playoff draughts in league history.
The 1995-96 season went somewhat better, with the arrival of #1 draft pick Joe Smith, and the unloading of an unhappy Hardaway, yet the Warriors could not crack .500 (36-46) and just missed the Playoffs again. Sprewell led the team with 18.9 ppg.
The 1996-97 saw Sprewell set his standing career highs in scoring (24.2 ppg, 4th in the NBA) and assists (6.3 apg, second among non-point guards), making his return to the All-Star game, where he led the West with 19 points on the night. He had four dunks in the game, including a memorable alley-oop from Gary Payton in the face of Dikembe Mutombo. Sprewell had six 40-plus point games that year, and set what was then a career high with 46 points in January '97. Despite Sprewell's offensive domination (and Joe Smith's continuing development), the team itself could not break out of the pack in the West, the Warriors again missed the Playoffs. This would be Sprewell's last full season as a Warrior...
In the first game of the 1997-98 season, Spree went off for 45 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, one point shy of his career high. After the scintillating start, however, things would quickly fall apart for the Warriors as they stumbled to a 1-13 start. Sprewell was doing what he could, scoring 21.2 ppg, but the team seemed to have problems acclimating to their new head coach, the notoriously player-unfriendly P. J. Carlesimo. Carlesimo's previous head coaching job in Portland had been fraught with issues between him and his players, due in large part to his overly vocal coaching style. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a defining factor in the Warriors' season, as it would cost them their star player.
Though a four-time All-Star, Sprewell's career has been permanently overshadowed by an incident on December 1, 1997, in which he attacked head coach P. J. Carlesimo during a Warriors practice. When Carlesimo yelled at Sprewell to make crisper passes, Sprewell responded that he was not in the mood for criticism and told the coach to keep his distance. When Carlesimo approached, Sprewell threatened to kill him and dragged him to the ground by his throat, choking him for 10-15 seconds before his teammates pulled Sprewell off his coach. Sprewell returned about 20 minutes later and landed a glancing blow at Carlesimo before being dragged away again.
Sprewell was suspended for 10 days without pay. The next day, in the wake of a public uproar, the Warriors voided the remainder of his contract, which included $23.7 million over three years, and the NBA suspended him for a full year. Sprewell took the case to arbitration, and, as a result, the contract voiding was overturned and the league suspension was reduced to the remainder of the season. Many of Sprewell's teammates supported him in this matter, perhaps privy to certain realities of playing under Carlesimo, but for the most part Sprewell's actions were condemned as downright unthinkable. Oddly, very little mention was made of Carlesimo's well-documented history of run-ins with the players he coached. Sprewell did not play again until January, 1999, after the Warriors traded him to the New York Knicks for John Starks, Chris Mills and Terry Cummings.
Many pundits felt that signing Sprewell was too big of a gamble for the Knicks to take, but Sprewell himself vowed that he was a changed man. As soon as Sprewell arrived in the Big Apple, he won the hearts of New York fans with his trademark intensity, quickly becoming one of the most popular players on the Knicks. Whereas the Knicks had been known to play a slower, more bruising style of basketball, with the arrival of Spree, as well as athletic big man Marcus Camby, the Knicks changed into a running team. The team had struggled to find an identity over the condensed 50-game schedule that year, and the change of pace would prove timely. New York narrowly qualified for the 1999 playoffs, making the field as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. New York shocked the NBA as they eliminated the Miami Heat, their most bitter rivals, by a single point in a decisive game after a buzzer-beating floater by Allan Houston. swept the Atlanta Hawks, and finally knocked off the Indiana Pacers en route to becoming the first eighth seeded team to make it to the NBA Finals, where they met the San Antonio Spurs. They eventually succumbed to the Spurs in 5 games, though Sprewell enjoyed a good series for the most part, averaging 26.0 ppg. He tallied 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 78-77 Game 5 loss, including a monstrous flying power dunk in the face of Jaren Jackson.
Sprewell would lead the Knicks deep into the Playoffs again in 1999-2000, taking them past the Heat in the second round, again by a single point in a decisive game 7. Again, the Knicks met the Pacers in the Conference Finals, however this time, they bowed out in six games, as the Pacers would move on to face the eventual champion Lakers in the Finals.
Over the next few years, Sprewell's popularity and appeal went global and his jersey became one of the top 10 selling NBA jerseys until 2004. Sprewell and teammate Allan Houston represented the Knicks during the 2001 All-Star Game in Washington D.C., where the East defeated the West in a remarkable late-game surge. After 10 years of service, the fan-favorite was still piling up the points, averaging 19.5 ppg and setting his own career high in the 2002 season, when he notched 49 points against the Boston Celtics. That season, Sprewell scored 40-plus points on three occasions.
In 2003, Sprewell made NBA history as he connected 9 of 9 from the three-point arc, making the most three pointers without a single miss en route to a season-high 38 points versus the Los Angeles Clippers (this has since been tied by Chicago Bulls' Ben Gordon). After the season, Sprewell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a four-team trade involving Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson, and Terrell Brandon.
During that regular season, Sprewell became part of the league's highest-scoring trio, alongside League MVP Kevin Garnett and point guard Sam Cassell. Sprewell helped the team earn the first seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and helped them knock off the Sacramento Kings in seven games, but Minnesota's franchise-record playoff run drew to an end when they were defeated by the Lakers in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals. Sprewell finished second in team scoring, pacing at 19.9 ppg behind Garnett's 24.0 ppg.
On October 31, 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves offered Sprewell a 3 year, $21 million contract extension, substantially less than what his then-current contract paid him. Insulted, he publicly vented his outrage, declaring, "I have a family to feed." He declined the extension, and, having once more drawn the ire of fans and sports media, had the worst season of his career in the final year of his contract.
One month into the 2005-06 season and without a contract, Sprewell's agent, Bob Gist, said his client would rather retire than play for the NBA minimum salary, telling Sports Illustrated, "Latrell doesn't need the money that badly. To go from being offered $7 million to taking $1 million, that would be a slap in the face." Several days later, Gist said that Sprewell planned to wait until "teams get desperate" around the trade deadline in February, and then sign with a contending team (an eventuality that never materialized). At any rate, Gist said that Sprewell would not be interested in signing for any team's $5 million mid-level exception, calling that amount "a level beneath which [Sprewell] would not stoop or kneel!"
In March 2006, Sprewell was offered contracts by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, both of whom were considered at the time to be strong favorites to win the NBA Championship; however, when contacted by these teams, Sprewell failed to respond with an answer to whether or not he would sign with them. As a result, the Mavericks and Spurs were no longer pursuing him, and he remained a free agent as the season came to a close. There was also some interest in Sprewell by the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season, but a disagreement in the contract offer resulted in a failure to reach a deal. As of 2006, it is not known whether or not Sprewell will ever play another NBA game.