Latrell Sprewell is one of my favorite Knicks of the past. He brought the anger and heart I love to see in a Knick uniform.
Let’s go back, way back to the mid 90’s. I was just getting into the house and I turned on the TV and Golden State vs. Philly was on. I watched Sprewell light it up and I was in awe of this guy. He was hitting jumpers, three’s and tomahawk dunks with aggression. He was an exciting young player with anger in his game that I had not seen in a while. At that point he was well known and had a reputation as uncoachable, but he could score, pass, dunk and run the floor. At the time, his name was dragged through the mud for his on the court and off the court drama. In 1997, he choked his then Head Coach PJ Carlesimo in a practice. I am not defending Latrell, but we know PJ from his Seton Hall days and he is not known for his warm fuzzy coaching style. That is no excuse to put your hand on anyone at any time, especially as a professional athlete. Of course after the incident he was suspended for 68 games and was lucky not to be kicked out of the league for life.
Enter the NY Knicks. After the 98/99 lockout, NY traded for the bad boy and a new chapter in his life was about to take a serious turn. When he arrived I was elated, the guy I watched for all these years in GS was coming to rock the rim in “The Mecca” of basketball. However, I know when NY gets stars they are usually older and not the same player they once were. The days of tomahawks down the lane without anyone knowing what he could do were over. He was on the big stage; and we all knew what he could do on the court. He brought it and was everything I thought he would be. Hitting 3’s and jumpers with the best of them and of course his trademark dunks on breakaway’s with his “fist clenched and scowl on his face”. He helped the Knicks drive deep into the playoffs and a trip to the finals. He spent an exciting, action packed 5 years in New York until traded in 2003 to the Wolves; however in 2002 he reported to camp with a broken hand and was fined 250k for not reporting the incident. Overall, he had his off the court issues here and there like everywhere else he had been, but I could see he was reborn here and was loved my most Knick fan’s.
Arriving in Minnesota, he teamed up with KG and Sam Casell to score the most points in the league that year. They ended up losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The following year Minny offered Sprewell a 3yr-21 million dollar contract. Latrell made a costly PR and financial mistake by turning down the contract and saying, “he had a family to feed”. That did not sit well with many people, but from what I can see, Latrell did not care what anyone else thought.
Latrell later retired with rumors of comebacks and contract offers, but in the end he left basketball behind and moved on with his life. Not much has been seen or heard of Latrell, except some relationship problems and yacht repossessions. Latrell had an interesting career marked by many downs, but his ups were some of the most exciting times of my Knicks life. Where are you Latrell Sprewell?