New York Magazine on Latrell Sprewell in 1999

I just happened across a 1999 New York article by Eric Konigsberg, which profiles Latrell Sprewell. It's chock-full of things I didn't know:

  • In 1994, Sprewell's dog severed his four-year-old daughters ear. He shrugged it off saying people die all the time and "if it had been more serious it would have affected me." Initially he kept the dog, although later he said he had it put down.

  • He is from a broken home (that he has since gone to great lengths to unite). When Sprewell was a kid in Flint, his father began selling marijuana, and the family could suddenly afford nicer things.

  • At junior college, Sprewell and some of his teammates were arrested for stealing batteries from a convenience store.

  • He got in fights with Byron Houston and Jerome Kersey in practice at different times. After the Kersey scrap, Sprewell returned with a 2x4, but was restrained.

  • Regarding the famous P.J. Carlesimo incident, David Stern told Konigsberg that Sprewell got a harsher punishment than other NBA fighters for one main reason: "It wasn't so much the choking that got Latrell such a severe punishment. It was coming back after he'd had time to cool off."

Konigsberg has this account of the famous choking, as cribbed mainly from the report by independent arbitrator John Feerick:

December 1, 1997, was the blowup, at a moment when the Warriors' record was 1-13. "We all seen it coming," Coles says. During practice, Sprewell was running a three-man, two-ball shooting drill with the point guard Muggsy Bogues and Mark Grabow, an assistant coach. Sprewell's job was to keep passing, rapid-fire, to Bogues, who in turn was to try to get as many shots off as possible in a 55-second span.

Carlesimo stood and watched, dissatisfied by the pace. "Get Muggsy some more shots, Spree," he said.

Sprewell didn't think there was anything wrong with his passes, so he kept passing exactly as he had been.

"Come on Spree, give him a sharper, crisper pass," Carlesimo said, a bit louder.

He called Sprewell's name again.

Sprewell wheeled around. He slammed the ball to the floor. "Get off my back, motherfucker."

"You're the fuck out of here," Carlesimo said. "Just go, Spree. Just leave."

Sprewell walked over to Carlesimo and grabbed him tight around the throat. "I'll kill you," Sprewell said, pushing Carlesimo backward.

"Do it," Carlesimo said.

It was about ten seconds until two assistant coaches pulled Sprewell off and led him out of the gym. "Get me the fuck out of here!" he yelled. "Trade me! I hate you!" He knocked over a water cooler.

Coles joined Sprewell in the hallway because he hoped to calm him down, but was called back; Carlesimo wanted to resume practice without a break.

If only he'd let Coles have his way. About fifteen minutes later, Sprewell returned to the gym. Two coaches tried to grab him, but he was already around the baseline and under the basket, where Carlesimo was monitoring a full-court drill.

"Don't touch me," Sprewell said. And then to Carlesimo: "I'm going to fuck you up." He grazed Carlesimo's cheek with an overhand punch as a swarm of coaches and players again pulled him away.

Sprewell testified he heard a teammate, Duane Ferrell, tell him he was only making himself look bad, and he felt humiliated all of a sudden. He was throwing a silly, violent tantrum. "Trade me," he yelled, and then realized he was missing a flip-flop and looked even more foolish, with one bare foot. "Give me my damned shoe."