It was reported that Latrell Sprewell, one of the most popular NBA players in the 90s, turned down a $21 million contract with the New York Knicks in 1999 because he had a family to feed and never played in the league again. His decision to turn down the deal — at least at first — seemed like an insane one that would forever tarnish his legacy as a basketball player and ultimately cost him any shot at playing in the NBA ever again.
Initial Signing of Latrell Sprewell
In the summer of 1998, Latrell Sprewell was offered a 3-year, $21 million contract with the New York Knicks. But in an interview with ESPN at the time, he said this about his decision: I’ve got a family to feed. After rejecting the offer, he never played another game in the NBA. He was 29 years old and had just won his second consecutive Sixth Man of the Year award.
The decline of Latrell Sprewell is one of the most famous and fascinating stories in sports history. In 1997, at the height of his power, he turned down a 5-year, $21-million-dollar contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Why? He wanted more money. He had a family to feed, as he put it at the time.
In 1997, Latrell Sprewell was offered an extension for his contract with the Golden State Warriors worth more than $21 million. He rejected the offer and walked away from basketball to become a full-time father. At first, he had trouble adjusting and felt out of place at home. But eventually, he found stability in his new life. It feels good when I’m home, he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2002. I can’t complain about anything.
Latrell Sprewell had the world at his fingertips. In the summer of 1997, he was about to sign one of the most lucrative contracts in basketball history. His agent, Arn Tellem, had finalized an agreement with Golden State Warriors owner Chris Cohan that would pay him over $62 million over six years. His first child was born just a few months before and he was set to provide for his new family.
As he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2008, I don’t care how much money I got… if I go out on this court and my kids ain’t right here beside me, then it ain’t worth s–t. But when the time came for him to sign the contract extension, he declined.
Latrell Sprewell was having one of the best seasons in his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves when he made the decision to decline a $21-million-dollar contract offer. In his autobiography, I Have a Family To Feed, he discusses how he felt it wasn’t worth it to him if he couldn’t provide for his children and family. The young player had no idea what would happen next. He thought that as long as he played hard, someone else would eventually give him a call. But life isn’t always so easy.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional basketball player. I can remember practicing with my dad and my brother from an early age. As I got older, I practiced on my own and made it onto the high school team. One of the best moments in my life was when I signed with the Golden State Warriors in 1993 as their first-round draft pick.
It was a big deal for me because that meant that all of the hard work that I put into playing basketball had paid off. The next year, when Latrell Sprewell was offered an 11-year, $121 million extension by the Warriors, he declined to say he had a family to feed. He never played another game in the NBA again.
Sixth Season and the Rest of Latrell Sprewell Career
The day before the 1997-1998 season started, Latrell Sprewell and his representatives went into negotiations with the Warriors. He asked for an outrageous salary of $100 million over 10 years.
The Warriors countered with a number more in line with what other guards had been earning at the time and offered him seven years, worth around $67 million. After they left the meeting, team president Rick Welts heard from one of his players that he was in trouble. He called back the group and said that he couldn’t go for their offer, but would be willing to do eight years for about $78 million.