History Podcasts

NBA suspends Latrell Sprewell for attacking coach

NBA suspends Latrell Sprewell for attacking coach

On December 4, 1997, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspends Latrell Sprewell, three-time All Star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, for one year after he attacked Warriors’ coach P.J. Carlesimo. During practice on December 1, Sprewell had a verbal confrontation with Carlesimo when the coach told him to “put a little mustard” on a pass. When Carlesimo approached him, Sprewell grabbed the other man around the neck and began choking him, until he was pulled away by several other players and team officials. Told to leave practice, Sprewell returned within 20 minutes and threw a punch at Carlesimo before he was again pulled away.

Carlesimo, who was known for his aggressive and often confrontational coaching style, had a history of problems with Sprewell, having previously benched the guard–his team’s leading scorer–after he was late to practice. The Warriors initially terminated Sprewell’s contract, and his year-long suspension was the longest ever handed out by the NBA. After Sprewell pushed for arbitration, the sentence was later reduced to 68 games, a gap that still cost Sprewell some $6 million in wages. After Sprewell was reinstated, Golden State traded him to the New York Knicks, where he resumed his career in 1999 and was embraced by the fans as a rebellious antihero. Carlesimo was fired by Golden State early in the 1999 season after his team limped to a 6-21 start.

In July 2003, the Knicks traded Sprewell to the Minnesota Timberwolves. During his 13 seasons with the NBA, Sprewell racked up an average of 18.3 points per game, and helped lead the Timberwolves to a berth in the playoffs during the 2004-05 season, When the season ended, however, Sprewell rejected a three-year, $21 million extension offer from the Timberwolves. As of late 2007, he remained a free agent.


1997 NBA suspends Latrell Sprewell for attacking coach

On December 4, 1997, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspends Latrell Sprewell, three-time All Star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, for one year after he attacked Warriors’ coach P.J. Carlesimo. During practice on December 1, Sprewell had a verbal confrontation with Carlesimo when the coach told him to “put a little mustard” on a pass. When Carlesimo approached him, Sprewell grabbed the other man around the neck and began choking him, until he was pulled away by several other players and team officials. Told to leave practice, Sprewell returned within 20 minutes and threw a punch at Carlesimo before he was again pulled away.

Carlesimo, who was known for his aggressive and often confrontational coaching style, had a history of problems with Sprewell, having previously benched the guard–his team’s leading scorer–after he was late to practice. The Warriors initially terminated Sprewell’s contract, and his year-long suspension was the longest ever handed out by the NBA. After Sprewell pushed for arbitration, the sentence was later reduced to 68 games, a gap that still cost Sprewell some $6 million in wages. After Sprewell was reinstated, Golden State traded him to the New York Knicks, where he resumed his career in 1999 and was embraced by the fans as a rebellious antihero. Carlesimo was fired by Golden State early in the 1999 season after his team limped to a 6-21 start.

In July 2003, the Knicks traded Sprewell to the Minnesota Timberwolves. During his 13 seasons with the NBA, Sprewell racked up an average of 18.3 points per game, and helped lead the Timberwolves to a berth in the playoffs during the 2004-05 season, When the season ended, however, Sprewell rejected a three-year, $21 million extension offer from the Timberwolves. As of late 2007, he remained a free agent.


Sprewell Is Suspended by the NBA

Less than 12 hours after his former employers, the Golden State Warriors, terminated his contract and its $23.7-million balance, the NBA terminated Latrell Sprewell’s job prospects, suspending him for a year, the rest of this season and the start of the next.

Also, the Converse sneaker company, which had vowed to stand by Sprewell, dropped him.

“Latrell Sprewell assaulted Coach P.J. Carlesimo twice at Monday’s practice,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “First, he choked him until forcibly pulled away. Then, after leaving practice, Mr. Sprewell returned and fought his way through others in order to commit a second, and this time clearly premeditated, assault.

“A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society. Accordingly, Latrell Sprewell is suspended from the NBA for one year.”

The suspension is the longest in NBA history. The record was held by the Lakers’ Kermit Washington, who missed half of the 1977-78 season after throwing the punch that caved in Rudy Tomjanovich’s face.

Billy Hunter, director of the NBA Players Assn., who had criticized Sprewell and indicated that the union would stay out of it when the Warriors handed down the first suspension of 10 games, said he will now file a grievance.

However, the central facts are not in dispute. In a series of interviews Sprewell gave Wednesday, he as much as admitted to twice assaulting Carlesimo after the coach threw him out of Monday’s practice, to choking him, saying “I’ll kill you,” and later, after going to the front office to demand a trade, returning and going after him again.

There is a dispute over provocation, however.

Warrior General Manager Garry St. Jean said Sprewell made “multiple unprovoked” assaults but the Contra Costa Times quoted an unnamed Warrior as saying, “P.J. provoked it,” claiming Carlesimo walked three-quarters the length of the court to confront Sprewell, who kept warning him, “Don’t come up on me.”

“All the frustration had built up to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore,” Sprewell told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I just wanted P.J. to leave me alone, basically. . . . I just got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Sprewell said he only uttered the death threat because “I was upset.” Nevertheless, extra security was brought in for Wednesday’s game.

The suspension is effective immediately and will end Dec. 3, 1998. Sprewell may be picked up on waivers, or signed as a free agent when waivers expire, but can’t play for a new team until then.

Meanwhile, Converse, whose spokeswoman had said Tuesday, “Latrell is still going to be with us,” cut its losses Thursday.

Neither Sprewell nor his agent, Arn Tellem, was available for comment Thursday. Tellem had indicated they would begin the grievance process before the league acted.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Golden State’s Latrell Sprewell is the fifth player to be suspended by the NBA and the first for insubordination:

* 1954--Jack Molinas of Fort Wayne Pistons was barred for life for gambling and eight years later was implicated in a college betting scandal.

* 1986--Micheal Ray Richardson of New Jersey Nets was suspended for substance abuse and was reinstated July 21, 1988.

* 1987--Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd of Houston Rockets were suspended for substance abuse. Wiggins was reinstated July, 27, 1989, and Lloyd was reinstated Sept. 9, 1989.

* 1995--Roy Tarpley of the Dallas Mavericks was banned for using alcohol, which violated terms of his after-care agreement. Tarpley had been banned by the league in 1991 and reinstated Sept. 30, 1994.

* 1997--Commissioner David Stern suspended Golden State’s Latrell Sprewell for one year--the longest suspension in league history--for what he called a “premeditated assault” on Coach P.J. Carlesimo.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Text of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s statement on the league’s one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell:

Latrell Sprewell assaulted Coach P.J. Carlesimo twice at Monday’s practice. First he choked him until forcibly pulled away. Then, after leaving practice, Mr. Sprewell returned and fought his way through others in order to commit a second, and this time clearly premeditated, assault.

A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society. Accordingly, Latrell Sprewell is suspended from the NBA for one year.


Sprewell Wins NBA Arbitration

Latrell Sprewell, fired and suspended for a year for attacking his coach, won a double victory Wednesday when an arbitrator ruled that the team must reinstate his contract and the National Basketball Association must reduce his suspension by five months.

Sprewell will become a member of the Golden State Warriors on July 1, when his NBA-imposed suspension will end.

He was suspended for one year by NBA commissioner David Stern the longest non-drug-related penalty in league history, for his Dec. 1 attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Stern cited the "premeditated" nature of the attack, but arbitrator John Feerick rejected that characterization.

"The evidence indicates that there is no history of both the league and a team imposing discipline for the same violent conduct, on or off the court," Feerick wrote in his decision. "This speaks to the issue of fairness, as I see it."

The reinstatement of Sprewell's contract means he will be paid the remaining $16.3 million over the final two years of his contract.

Trending News

It was a resounding victory for Sprewell and the players' union, which argued that the penalties were both unduly harsh and unprecedented.

"This decision is a victory that is shared by Latrell and the other 400 members of our union. It reaffirms the sanctity of guaranteed contracts in the NBA," said union president Billy Hunter.

Sprewell has missed 44 games since his contract was terminated Dec. 3 by the Warriors. By the end of the season, he will have missed 68 games, costing him $6.4 million in lost salary.

He remains barred from the Warriors' team facilities and NBA arenas until July 1.

His return is subject to the NBA receiving assurances from Sprewell and the player's association that he will control and manage his temper, Feerick ruled.

Sprewell filed two grievances, one against the Warriors for terminating the remaining three years of his four-year, $32 million contract, the other against the league for imposing the one-year suspension.

At an arbitration hearing held in January and February, Sprewell's attorneys argued that he was the first player to be penalized by both the league and a team for a serious transgression. His side also argued that the collective bargaining agreement clearly states that a penalty in a case like this could be issued by either a team or the league, but not both.

Sprewell's side also argued that the one-year suspension was too severe when compared with previous penalties issued by the NBA.

The NBA argued that the penalty was not excessive, given the nature of the attack. The league's security department interviewed 23 witnesses and determined that Sprewell got into a fight with Carlesimo at practice and choked the coach, then returned some 20 minutes later and punched him.

The union disputed whether a punch landed in the second confrontation.

The Warriors argued that they had th right to terminate Sprewell's contract under the uniform player contract, which says players must "conform to standards of good citizenship and good moral character" and prohibits "engaging in acts of moral turpitude."

Written by Chris Sheridan
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

First published on March 4, 1998 / 3:21 PM

© 1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


PRO BASKETBALL N.B.A. Suspends Player Who Attacked His Coach

The National Basketball Association suspended Latrell Sprewell of the Golden State Warriors for one year without pay yesterday, three days after the 27-year-old All-Star guard physically assaulted his coach, P. J. Carlesimo.

The penalty was swift and the most severe ever assessed against a professional player for what the league classified as insubordination. It signaled the league's determination to deal with behavior problems that have tarnished its image. And it was justified, the league said, because of the seriousness of the attack, in which Sprewell choked the coach, threatened to kill him and hit him at a practice session on Monday.

'ɺ sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society,'' Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

The commissioner's action followed the Warriors' decision on Wednesday night to terminate the remainder of Sprewell's $32 million contract.

Yesterday, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Billy Hunter, said he planned to file separate grievances contesting both the termination of the contract and the league's suspension. The dispute is almost certain to go before an arbitrator.

''To strip a player of his ability to pursue his livelihood for a full year based on one incident is excessive and unreasonable punishment,'' Hunter said in a statement. ''We previously stated that we would not contest a 10-game suspension even though it would cost Latrell $1 million in salary.

''Now it seems as if some other agenda is driving the Warriors and the N.B.A. A $25 million forfeiture of salary and one-year expulsion is staggering.''

Sprewell, in his fifth season out of the University of Alabama, had earned $9.95 million entering this season -- $2.95 million on his original four-year deal, and another $7 million last season in the first year of his four-year, $32 million contract. In terminating his contract, the Warriors cited the Uniform Player Contract, which states that players must 'ɼonform to standards of good citizenship and good moral character.''

The incident comes at a time when the league has been beset by problems ranging from criminal actions to insubordination and disrespect for authority. In the last year, Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls forward, was suspended and fined for kicking a courtside cameraman in the groin Allen Iverson of Philadelphia, the rookie of the year in 1997, pleaded no contest to a weapons charge, and Charles Barkley of Houston was recently charged in an incident in which witnesses said he threw a man through a plate-glass window after a bar disturbance in Orlando, Fla.

Stern explained his ruling by characterizing Sprewell as a player who had not only lost control during a dispute at a team practice on Monday but also one who had time to calm down before returning for a second attack.

''Latrell Sprewell assaulted Coach P. J. Carlesimo twice at Monday's practice,'' Stern said. 'ɿirst, he choked him until forcibly pulled away. Then, after leaving practice, Mr. Sprewell returned and fought his way through others in order to commit a second, and this time clearly premeditated, assault.''

Sprewell could not be reached for comment yesterday. But his agent, Arn Tellem, said last night: ''It is totally excessive and outside the bounds of any precedent in team sports history. It is an abuse of the commissioner's powers. Given all the other incidents involving players and referees and even players and coaches, this penalty is totally out of line with anything that's gone on before it.''

In a television interview with a San Francisco station at his home on Wednesday night, Sprewell apologized in his first public statement on the attack and admitted he had made a mistake.

But he did not apologize to Carlesimo, instead portraying the coach as someone whose pattern of verbal abuse over the course of two months he could no longer tolerate.

If Sprewell's reputation is tarnished, so, too, is his earning power at the moment. Depending on the results of the pending arbitration pitting the Warriors and the league against the players association, Sprewell stands to lose a substantial portion of his $7.7 million salary this season and more than $24 million over the length of his contract.

In addition, Converse, the shoe company that Sprewell represents, terminated his endorsement contract yesterday. According to Bob Williams, the president of Burns Sports, which consults advertising agencies on athletic endorsers, the Converse contract for a player of Latrell Sprewell's caliber is worth between $300,000 and $600,000 annually.

An arbitration hearing on either the termination of his contract or the suspension may involve testimony of dozens of players who were coached by Carlesimo, who has a reputation as a loud and blunt coach.

The players association tried to seize that angle yesterday, using a news release that portrayed Carlesimo as someone who could have prevented the altercation by not moving toward Sprewell as he became enraged.

''Some people have said that Latrell crossed the line with his actions,'' said Patrick Ewing, the Knick center who is also the players association president. ''We believe the N.B.A. and the Warriors have crossed the line with their actions.''

According to one league official familiar with the league's investigative process, Sprewell's lack of remorse toward Carlesimo and poor initial cooperation in the investigative process may have hurt his chances for a shorter suspension. Sprewell, the official said, refused to speak to members of the players association via a conference call on Tuesday, the day after the incident.

Horace Balmer, the league's vice president of security and part of a three-person security team, interviewed Sprewell by telephone the same day. Other players were interviewed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hunter had planned to fly Sprewell to New York to meet with the league and present his version of events. But by yesterday morning the league had finished its inquiry, and Russ Granik, the league's deputy commissioner, called Hunter and told him not to bother bringing Sprewell to New York, saying, ''We've already made our decision.''

Carlesimo has said he will not seek criminal charges against Sprewell, and a spokesman for the Oakland, Calif., police department said yesterday that he knew of no separate action that was planned.

The longest previous suspension issued by the N.B.A. for a non-drug-related transgression came in 1977, when Kermit Washington of the Lakers was banned for 60 days, covering 26 games, after he broke the jaw of Houston's Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch during a game.

On March 28, 1977, Lenny Randle of baseball's Texas Rangers punched his manager, Frank Lucchesi, three times before an exhibition game. The Rangers fined Randle $10,000 and suspended him for 30 days, resulting in a loss of $13,408 in salary.

Suspensions have been meted out by leagues for drug or gambling violations. Two former N.B.A. players, Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas, were suspended for life for violating the league's substance abuse policy. For the Warriors, the Sprewell incident came in the midst of a miserable season in which they have won 1 game and lost 14 this season.

On Monday, Sprewell can be signed by any other of the league's 28 teams. But at least for now he is not eligible to return to work or play until Dec. 3, 1998.


NBA suspends Sprewell

The National Basketball Association threw its weight Thursday behind the Golden State Warriors' decision to terminate Latrell Sprewell's contract, suspending the All-Star guard for a year.

NBA commissioner David Stern cited the incidents at Monday's practice, in which Sprewell choked head coach P.J. Carlesimo, then came back and tried to punch him.

Stern added: "A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society. Accordingly, Latrell Sprewell is suspended from the NBA for one year."

The statement went on to say the suspension, without pay, takes effect immediately and will end Dec. 3 next year.

The Warriors had terminated Sprewell's four-year, $32 million contract Wednesday because of the attack, an unprecedented action for insubordination by an NBA team. Two players, Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas, had previously been terminated for drug use.

The Warriors had also requested waivers on Sprewell, a procedural move that might have made him eligible to be signed by another team. The league's action prevents him from playing for anybody else.

Not only will Sprewell lose more than $8 million in salary but also the money he received endorsing Converse products. The sneaker manufacturer announced Thursday it was reversing its decision of the previous day and canceling its contract with Sprewell.

The Warriors' move set up a legal fight with the players union, and Thursday's action by the NBA is a strong indication the league will go into battle alongside the team.

Sprewell's agent, Arn Tellem, said late Wednesday he would file a grievance immediately and that the National Basketball Players Association "agrees with us and will vigorously fight this."

If successful, the Warriors' move, announced after their 95-67 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night, would nullify the rest of the four-year, $32 million contract Sprewell signed two summers ago.

The team would save about $24 million and could get under the NBA's salary cap next off-season, allowing it to pursue free agents who could help reverse the club's sagging fortunes. The Warriors are 1-14 and seem assured of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

General Manager Garry St. Jean insisted money was not the central issue in the move.

"This wasn't an economical decision," St. Jean said.

"This was a decision about morals and ethics and the right thing to do, and this franchise stands strong in its belief."

Tellem, known for aggressively defending his clients regardless of the circumstances, was just as adamant in disputing the Warriors' contention.

"They couldn't get the best (trade) possible, so they decided to eliminate the financial obligation," Tellem said. "That's what they care about more than anything. This isn't about an ethical issue."

St. Jean, who said Sprewell will never play for the Warriors again no matter how the case turns out, admitted there's no certainty the team will be allowed to simply fire the three-time All-Star without giving him any further compensation.

"We have a good feeling about it, but I can't tell you that it's rock solid," he said.

Because the collective bargaining agreement provides for binding arbitration as the last resort in case the Warriors and Sprewell don't reach a compromise, the matter may be resolved relatively quickly.

That could benefit the club, which otherwise may have to wait for a lengthy legal process before it could use the cap room Sprewell's termination would create.

Sprewell gives his side&lt

Less than four hours before the Warriors announced their move, Sprewell gave his side of the story for the first time in public. In an interview with KPIX-TV, Sprewell expressed regret for his actions but did not apologize to Carlesimo.

"I want to apologize to my fans, my family and friends of mine who saw this," Sprewell said. "It's definitely not something that I condone, but it did happen. And that's a mistake I made.

"I think it's been known for some time now that we haven't been on good terms. And it's been over a month or so now, and I just couldn't take the verbal abuse that he's been giving all the guys over the past month or so."

Several of Sprewell's teammates pointed out before the game that the high-strung Carlesimo is hardly the most vociferous coach they've had, and that Sprewell was not singled out for abuse.

However, after the game they were almost unanimously stunned to hear of the firing, and many felt the team was being unduly harsh toward their teammate.

"Fair? I don't know what fair is anymore," said Bimbo Coles, who was crying while holding his head between his hands. He sat in front of his locker, adjacent to Sprewell's, incredulous of the news that had been delivered to the team right after the game.


Warriors' Sprewell Suspended For Attacking, Choking Coach

Golden State Warriors Latrell Sprewell, right, leans into Portland Trail Blazers Isaiah Rider, as he goes up for a basket in the first half, Saturday Nov. 15, 1997, in Oakland, Calif. AP Photo / Lacy Atkins

The Golden State Warriors suspended Latrell Sprewell for a minimum of 10 games yesterday, hours after the three-time All- Star guard and the team's leading scorer twice attacked coach P.J. Carlesimo in practice -- at one point choking him and leaving a three-inch mark on his throat, the team announced.

The suspension begins with tomorrow's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and extends at least through the Warriors' December 22 game at the Phoenix Suns. General Manager Garry St. Jean said last night that between now and then, he will talk to Sprewell, his agent, Arn Tellem, and NBA officials to determine the conditions under

which the player will be reinstated. Sprewell will lose 10 games' pay, more than $935,000 from his 1997-98 salary of $7.67 million. Sprewell -- who has been at odds with Carlesimo almost from the time the coach was hired in June -- could not be reached for comment last night. Neither could Tellem, who is based in Los Angeles.

At a hastily called news conference at the Warriors' practice facility in downtown Oakland last night, St. Jean said he could not speculate on the future of Sprewell, who, like virtually all of the players on the 1-13 team, has been made available around the league in trade offers all season. "I'm not going to say that what happened (yesterday) is going to add fuel to what we do," St. Jean said.

However, while St. Jean said he had seen coach-player confrontations before, what happened yesterday was "very, very serious." That was obvious upon Carlesimo's appearance, both after the early afternoon practice and at last night's news conference -- he had a scratch on his throat where the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Sprewell, angry at the coach after being ordered out of practice, had wrapped his fingers.

Word of the fight trickled out that afternoon, as did speculation that Sprewell was about to be severely disciplined, forcing the Warriors to call the news conference to tell their version of the story.

"During practice, on two different occasions, there were words spoken during a drill," Carlesimo said. "I asked Sprewell to leave practice, he didn't, the words escalated to physical contact."

Sprewell finally left the court and went to the locker room after the scuffle, which drew the entire team from all corners of the court. But he later returned and, in Carlesimo's words, "there was more physical contact," believed to be an exchange of punches. Carlesimo offered no more details and avoided answering questions about the scratches he did say that he did not believe he provoked the attack.

"What we want to state is that the integrity of our franchise stands strong," said St. Jean, sitting next to Carlesimo as his three assistant coaches -- Rod Higgins, Bob Staak and Paul Westhead -- stood nearby. "We are not going to tolerate the actions on the court (yesterday)."

St. Jean did not mention the conditions with which Sprewell would have to comply in order to return. He did point out, however, that Sprewell had neither apologized nor shown remorse.

"If there is dialogue among all parties in a positive way," St. Jean said, "(the suspension) could be shortened some. Or if there's no progress, it will lengthen."

The NBA Players Association likely will appeal the suspension when it is informed of it today.

On November 9, during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Inglewood, Carlesimo and Sprewell argued during a timeout when the player was seen laughing during the 35-point defeat. Carlesimo ordered him out of the game, and Sprewell used a profanity and called the coach "a joke." Two days later, Carlesimo ordered Sprewell out of practice and benched him for the start of the next night's game against Detroit in Oakland. The relationship between the two has not improved while Sprewell has pointedly refused to speak publicly on any topic this season, he routinely has ridiculed Carlesimo in private.

Carlesimo and St. Jean insisted that the harsh punishment was not a result of cumulative insubordinate acts. "What the suspension is about is what happened today in practice," the coach said, adding the qualifier, "Obviously, I'm one of the people involved."

St. Jean said he did speak briefly to Sprewell in his office after the incidents, to tell him that some disciplinary action was forthcoming. At the time the general manager spoke to the media, however, he said he had not told Sprewell directly about the suspension, only leaving messages on the player's answering machine. The other Warriors had not been informed of the suspension none could be reached for comment.

The coach and the player have had run-ins with others during their time in the NBA. Sprewell and Tim Hardaway, the Warriors' former All-Star guard, feuded throughout the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. Sprewell spent the 1994-95 season protesting the trades by then-coach Don Nelson of close friends Chris Webber and Billy Owens he was suspended twice for a total of three games for skipping practices and team functions. Hardaway was traded to Miami in February 1996.

Carlesimo, meanwhile, engaged in a running feud with guard Rod Strickland while coaching the Portland Trail Blazers from 1994 to 1996 Strickland once left the team for more than a week after not getting his wish to be traded. Last season, Carlesimo and the Trail Blazers organization disciplined several players at various times for rules violations, and former Blazer Clifford Robinson once cursed Carlesimo loudly after being removed from a game.


Another prominent member of those Pistons teams was none other than 6-foot-11 big man Bill Laimbeer. The term enforcer probably does not do justice to what Laimbeer did while on the court. His extremely hard fouls made their mark — figuratively and literally. Unfortunately for the four-time All-Star, he’s considered one of the dirtiest players in the history of the game.

We would not have done justice to this list if it did not have Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace. He was a controversial figure throughout his career — to put it nicely — but his unforgettable involvement in the infamous “Malice at the Palace” in 2004 has to take the cake. Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and fined a hefty sum for starting what is considered the most violent brawl in NBA history.

Oh, and who could forget this vicious elbow on James Harden. It’s still tough to watch after all these years:


Latrell Sprewell Suspended For Attacking, Choking Coach

Golden State Warriors Latrell Sprewell, right, leans into Portland Trail Blazers Isaiah Rider, as he goes up for a basket in the first half, Saturday Nov. 15, 1997, in Oakland, Calif. AP Photo / Lacy Atkins

The Golden State Warriors suspended Latrell Sprewell for a minimum of 10 games yesterday, hours after the three-time All- Star guard and the team's leading scorer twice attacked coach P.J. Carlesimo in practice -- at one point choking him and leaving a three-inch mark on his throat, the team announced.

The suspension begins with tomorrow's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and extends at least through the Warriors' December 22 game at the Phoenix Suns. General Manager Garry St. Jean said last night that between now and then, he will talk to Sprewell, his agent, Arn Tellem, and NBA officials to determine the conditions under

which the player will be reinstated. Sprewell will lose 10 games' pay, more than $935,000 from his 1997-98 salary of $7.67 million.

Sprewell -- who has been at odds with Carlesimo almost from the time the coach was hired in June -- could not be reached for comment last night. Neither could Tellem, who is based in Los Angeles. At a hastily called news conference at the Warriors' practice facility in downtown Oakland last night, St. Jean said he could not speculate on the future of Sprewell, who, like virtually all of the players on the 1-13 team, has been made available around the league in trade offers all season. "I'm not going to say that what happened (yesterday) is going to add fuel to what we do," St. Jean said.

However, while St. Jean said he had seen coach-player confrontations before, what happened yesterday was "very, very serious." That was obvious upon Carlesimo's appearance, both after the early afternoon practice and at last night's news conference -- he had a scratch on his throat where the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Sprewell, angry at the coach after being ordered out of practice, had wrapped his fingers.

Word of the fight trickled out that afternoon, as did speculation that Sprewell was about to be severely disciplined, forcing the Warriors to call the news conference to tell their version of the story.

"During practice, on two different occasions, there were words spoken during a drill," Carlesimo said. "I asked Sprewell to leave practice, he didn't, the words escalated to physical contact."

Sprewell finally left the court and went to the locker room after the scuffle, which drew the entire team from all corners of the court. But he later returned and, in Carlesimo's words, "there was more physical contact," believed to be an exchange of punches. Carlesimo offered no more details and avoided answering questions about the scratches he did say that he did not believe he provoked the attack.

"What we want to state is that the integrity of our franchise stands strong," said St. Jean, sitting next to Carlesimo as his three assistant coaches -- Rod Higgins, Bob Staak and Paul Westhead -- stood nearby. "We are not going to tolerate the actions on the court (yesterday)."

St. Jean did not mention the conditions with which Sprewell would have to comply in order to return. He did point out, however, that Sprewell had neither apologized nor shown remorse.


BARKLEY SAYS SPREWELL'S ATTACKS WERE 'STUPID'

Outspoken Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley said yesterday he backs the NBA's one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell for attacking Golden State Coach P.J. Carlesimo but opposes the Warriors' voiding of the rest of the player's $32 million contract.

Appearing on CNN's "Crossfire," Barkley said there would be no boycott -- for Sprewell.

"We're not going to boycott anything for Latrell Sprewell," Barkley said. "I like Latrell, but what he did was stupid. It was wrong. And under no circumstances can we accept that."

Also interviewed on MSNBC, Barkley clarified his comments on Tuesday regarding a possible boycott. He said he had raised the possibility of an NBA players' boycott of the All-Star Game and the world championships in Greece next year only in connection with union negotiations with the NBA, not over the Sprewell controversy, as was widely reported.

Barkley said he found Sprewell's two attacks on Carlesimo at a practice on Dec. 1 to be indefensible. "It's the worst thing that happened since I've been in sports," said the 34-year-old Barkley, who is in his 14th year in the NBA. "I can't think of anything that even comes close."

But Barkley said players are concerned about teams using "selective judgment if they don't like a guy if he does something wrong off the court to be able to void his whole contract that's the problem we have."

Barkley was appalled that many of Sprewell's former teammates stood with the suspended guard at his Tuesday news conference.

"I did not like them being at that press conference because them being at that press conference meant it's all right to choke your coach," Barkley said. "I've read a couple of player accounts of what happened during that incident. And if you read it closely, several of the players keep shooting while Latrell is choking the coach. How absurd is that?"

Barkley also commented on former O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran, who gained fame for raising racial issues in successfully defending the ex-football star in his double murder trial, being on the dais with Sprewell.

"It bothers me more than anything people making this out to be a black-white thing," Barkley said. "I was proud of the association for sticking with Latrell. I was disappointed that they made race an issue. I was disappointed they brought in Johnnie Cochran."

Barkley added: "We as players have to police the game. We are caretakers of the game. And right now we're just doing a terrible job.

"I've done some things that were wrong and stupid. I've always said I had great respect for the coaches I've played for, even though I didn't agree with them all the time."

Barkley did not elaborate on future union actions should the NBA invoke its right to reopen the collective bargaining agreement, but said: "I want everybody to make as much money as possible, but we have to address the salaries. The owners need to make money just like the players."


PAGE ONE -- NBA Suspends Sprewell for a Year / Angry S.F., Oakland mayors call for investigation

Golden State Warriors all- star guard Latrell Sprewell was banned from basketball for one year yesterday by NBA Commissioner David Stern -- the longest suspension ever given by the National Basketball Association for a conduct violation.

The ban prompted by Sprewell's attack Monday on team coach P.J. Carlesimo provoked an outpouring of reaction, including an angry response from the mayors of San Francisco and Oakland.

"This is not a person accused of rape, accused of kicking a TV cameraman, accused of carrying a gun on an airplane," said San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who has asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the NAACP and Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris to investigate.

Reminded that Sprewell was accused of choking his boss, the mayor responded, "His boss may have needed

choking. It may have been justified . . . someone should have asked the question, 'What prompted that?' "

Warriors' counsel Robin Baggett swiftly replied to Brown's allegations.

"He doesn't know the facts. He obviously hasn't learned from his Elvis Grbac experience," said Baggett, referring to Brown's controversial comments on the 49ers' former quarterback.

In Oakland, Harris joined with Brown in calling for an investigation.

"Race is an issue but, more importantly, for an athlete who may be similarly dismissed and sanctioned by the NBA without a fair hearing is cause for pause," Harris said.

"Whether it's a millionaire athlete, black or white, simply the issue of fairness and the avoidance of kangaroo court or a media circus should concern all of us."

On Wednesday, Sprewell was fired by the Warriors for the alleged "premeditated assault" on Carlesimo. Sprewell's ouster led the NBA Players Association -- which called the firing "excessive and unreasonable punishment" -- to announce yesterday that it would file a grievance against both the Warriors and the league.

The Warriors' termination of Sprewell's contract will cost him more than $23 million over the next three years, and the suspension prevents his being paid by any other NBA team. The ban was not unexpected, since the Warriors did not want him to go to another team for no compensation. Sprewell, 27, is a three-time All-Star and a 20-point-per-game scorer who had some trade value before Monday's attack.

Sprewell could not be reached for comment.

The Warriors refused comment on the suspension and the union's challenge to it.

Sprewell's former Warriors teammates, however, weighed in.

"I think it was just a little bit too hard," said Donyell Marshall after yesterday's practice in Oakland. "They already took his contract from him. They took $25 million. They didn't even say, go play somewhere for the minimum. They took everything from him."

"I'm not sure what good can come out of it," said Muggsy Bogues. "You've got a guy out on the street with no source of income, and he's got kids to feed."

Sprewell has a daughter, 7, and a son, 2.

Sprewell will not have endorsement income to fall back on. Yesterday, after having stood behind their client in light of the original 10-game suspension, Converse dropped Sprewell as a spokesman after more than three years.

Stern left no doubt as to his feelings about the attack. "A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society," he said.

Stern also described what the NBA had learned of the attack through its investigation, saying that Sprewell "returned and fought his way through others in order to commit a second, and this time clearly premeditated, assault."

The treatment of the matter in the sports world set off a firestorm of controversy in the political world.

Mayor Brown said last night at City Hall that he decided to get involved by contacting other political leaders and civil rights figures on Sprewell's behalf because of a belief that the former Warriors player had not been treated fairly by the team or the media.

"I hate to see a huge apparatus take advantage of a single individual," Brown said. "The singular overkill in this incident cries out for attention."

Brown noted that at least five other NBA players have had serious problems with the Warriors coach, "a whole host of people who have had trouble."

He said that stress, tough work schedules and other factors may have affected Sprewell. t "We also need to find out the root causes" of the assault, he said, adding that Sprewell is "being held up as if he's Charlie Manson."

Harris said he had asked for a briefing from the Warriors on the matter. "This is fairly unprecedented in the annals of the NBA and professional sports," Harris told KGO radio. "That it happened so fast, and such finality is of concern to us . . . yes, it is a person of color. As a community leader, who's certainly concerned about everyone who lives and works in Oakland, (I) just want to make sure it's fair."

The Rev. Amos Brown, a prominent African American community leader and San Francisco supervisor, said he does not in any way condone physical violence -- but added he was angered by the Sprewell suspension.

"It was unconscionable that he got this kind of severe punishment, considering that, stereotypically, black folk historically have been used to provide entertainment to the established culture, whether through sports or music," Brown said.

"We have been used as fodder for the entertainment world. People have made money off us . . . and yet they expect a player to be subjected to the hostile, abusive approach of this coach. He got what he was asking for."

But not all the reaction was favorable to Sprewell among African American community leaders.

"I can't buy that -- I don't think anybody deserves to be choked," said Alameda County Supervisor Mary King, who is African American. "Violence is not OK in politics. It's not OK in sports, and it's not OK in our dealings on the street . . . it's really unfortunate that it would get political."

Oakland NAACP President Shannon Reeves said neither he nor the NAACP is part of any organized effort by Bay Area political heavies to insert themselves in the Sprewell incident. Reeves said he was contacted by Brown and that his office also received numerous calls from fans regarding the case.

Reeves said if a discrimination complaint is filed, the NAACP will investigate -- but the case will not get special treatment. "We will follow normal procedure," he said. "We cannot push everyday people aside just because an athlete has a problem."

Meanwhile, sports leaders -- particularly coaches and general managers -- supported Stern's action and, by extension, the Warriors and Carlesimo.

"It was the most outrageous act of insubordination I've ever seen," said Boston Celtics general manager Chris Wallace. "I'm happy the discipline had some teeth to it."

New Jersey Nets General Manager John Nash agreed, while raising the question of whether Sprewell would be signed to play in the NBA again when the suspension is lifted. "I suspect someone will give him a shot," he said. "I know one team that won't, though, and that's the one I'm working for."

Chronicle reporters Torri Minton, Thaai Walker, Manny Fernandez, Andy Ross and Phil Matier contributed to this report.

List of site sources >>>


Watch the video: Latrell Sprewell - Explosive Scorer (January 2022).