This is random as hell, but thanks to the discussion on the New York Knicks last night on the Unsportsmanlike Conduct show, a vivid memory came to the surface. It is a memory of literally one of my five favorite basketball players who ever lived.
For people who frequent this site, they are bound to see stories on Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, and Rasheed Wallace. The fifth player who makes up my five favorite players of all-time is mentioned in passing, but today will be the day that this post is all about him.
He’s the basketball player who not only performed exploits on the court, but he also contributed to the boom of spinning rims and helped make Dada basketball shoes legitimate. It is none other than The Great Latrell Sprewell.
There was a time when Sprewell was one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA. The man played over 40 minutes a night and did so at an absolutely frenetic pace. At one time (albeit a short time), he and Chris Webber were on the same Golden State squad. At another time, he and Tim Hardaway were together, and for anyone who is a fan of those three, they sure brought the fans some entertaining basketball.
Sprewell was an underrated defender, and easily one of the most exciting finishers in modern basketball history. Some people are inclined to remember Sprewell in his New York and Minnesota years (which will be elaborated on shortly), but for people who have memories of Latrell Sprewell in Golden State, watching him dunk on people, or on a break, or watching him in the midst of a massive scoring barrage, was jump-out-of-your seat television.
As Ed said last week, Sprewell is one of the more recognizable players from the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, due to his role in helping the Knicks not only make the Finals, but being one of the few players who even bothered showing up against the Spurs in The Finals (I remember that series like it was yesterday, and it still pisses me off.) Spree had some great times in New York, helped contribute to keeping the Garden alive and the momentum rocking, especially post-Ewing’s injury, and really took to being the face of the team as well as The People’s Champ.
By the time Sprewell got to the Timberwolves, he was just what Kevin Garnett needed. Here was a man in Garnett who had done so much over his career, but hadn’t accomplished a thing in the post-season. Thanks to Sprewell, as well as Sam Cassell, the Wolves reached their first (and only) conference championship in franchise history.
Sprewell was still vintage Spree: talking crazy, playing D, hitting timely shots, and letting out rabid, earth-shattering screams on his way to the rim for a jam. To this day, it’s ridiculous how this trio wasn’t kept together, especially seeing what they accomplished in so little time.
For 13 years, Latrell Sprewell was one of the most complicated players in the NBA, while having a style of play that was totally the opposite. He was relentless. He was fearless. He was dope. For people who love Spree, we’re just happy we got the chance to see him play.
In his career, he went from being The Man in Golden State, to a major and visible piece to a championship contending puzzle in New York, to a man who helped a once-in-a-generation talent find playoff success in Minnesota. He was all these things and more, and that's why he's appreciated.
A couple of mysteries need to be solved:
1. How the Knicks organization decided that it was better to give Allan Houston a fat contract, leaving Sprewell out in the cold. As much as I loved Houston, Sprewell was the person that made that franchise go. Imagine the kind of damage that he, a healthy Marcus Camby and a hot-shooting Houston could have done had management found a way to make it work.
2. Why Minnesota's front office didn't tie up the loose ends following the 2003/04 season ... None of the personal issues should have made it to court at the beginning of the 04/05 season, but they did, and the Wolves went into a tailspin.
All that being said, the "I've got mouths to feed" remark has got to be one of Spree's "LOL Moments", sadly they bookend such a sterling career.
How can you not mention the choke? I love spree. Most people would agree that played against him that he was one of the best on the court at the time. Dude was tough as nails.
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