By Robert Stitt
It’s often been said that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Most of us might carry that into not choking the person whose hand feeds you as well. Latrell Sprewell did not make that leap in logic. Recently, that error and other lapses in judgement have taken him down a dark road.
In 1992, Latrell Sprewell was a first round NBA draft pick by the Golden State Warriors, the 24th player to be selected that year. During his time with the Warriors, he set records, made the All-Star team three times, and led Golden State to the playoffs in 1994. He also showed his hot temper. In 1993, he fought with teammate Byron Houston and in 1995 after a rumble with Jerome Kersey, he famously returned to practice with a 2×4 and threatened to get a gun.
Despite his many on-court accomplishments, December 1, 1997 was the day for which most remember Sprewell. Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo corrected Sprewell on his passing. Sprewell had words with the coach and told him to stay away. As reported in Celebrity NetWorth, when the coach approached him, “Sprewell threatened to kill him and dragged him backwards by his throat, choking him for nearly ten seconds before other teammates and coaches intervened. About 20 minutes later, after showering and changing, Sprewell came back to the court and attacked Carlesimo again, landing a glancing blow on the coach’s cheek prior to being restrained.”
Sprewell had his $24 million contract voided and was let go by the Warriors. Through arbitration, his contract was reinstated but he was suspended for the season. His off the court behavior did not improve during his suspension as he injured two people during a high speed accident. He was fined and placed under house arrest for three months.
Two years later, in 1999, Sprewell was traded to the New York Knicks. The fact that he could get into so much trouble and still have a career in the NBA is a testament to his enormous talent.
The Knicks reached the NBA finals the next year, and for his part in the effort, Sprewell was given a 5-year $62 million contract. In 2004, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he joined NBA superstars Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell. The trio became the highest scoring group in the NBA. That same year, the Timberwolves won their division and nearly won the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves were happy with Sprewell, but he did not have the same sentiments. When offered a $14.6 million extension that would have earned him $27-30 million over the next couple of years and kept him playing ball, Sprewell made the statement that became almost as famous as his coach-choking incident. When asked about turning down the contract extension, Sprewell said, “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. I got my family to feed.”
Sprewell played one more year for Minnesota without the contract extension, and played miserably. Still thinking higher of himself than the teams or coaches he negotiated with, he was never again able to agree on a salary and has not played professional ball since. So, some might say that his negative attitude caught up with him, because no NBA team wants to sign an angry old man whose best days are behind him.
More trouble with the law off the court meant more legal fees for the one-time star.
In 2007, Sprewell left that “family he had to feed” and was sued for $200 million. That year, his yacht was repossessed, he defaulted on his $1.5 million mortgage and Milwaukee went after him for $3 million in back taxes. Two years later he lost his other mansion.
During the course of his career, Latrell Sprewell made over $100 million. Today, Celebrity NetWorth reports that he has around $50,000 and lives in a modest rental.
While he left the family, the courts say he still has to find a way to feed them. Sprewell’s story might be a lesson on the importance of understanding humility, prudence, and financial literacy. If he’d had better advisors, he might not be broke today.