This Day In History: December 4

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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.