By Rahul Lal
Latrell Sprewell is known for many different roles whether that be scorer, hothead or all-star but he was never known as an NBA champion and it still haunts him to this day.
Sprewell sat down with Michael Rapaport during his most recent episode of the I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST on CBS Radio’s Play.it network to talk honestly about his NBA career and some of the most memorable moments of it and especially about never getting the chance to win a ring.
“When you dream about it as a kid, you dream about being in that situation,” said Sprewell. “[When] you actually have a chance to obtain it but you fall short, you never get over that.”
Sprewell was referring to his chance in 1999 when he was a member of the New York Knicks alongside notable names such as Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Dennis Scott, Kurt Thomas and a young Marcus Camby. The team faced San Antonio’s Twin Towers in “The Admiral” David Robinson and a second-year Tim Duncan who would take home the Finals MVP and officially start his dominance. One of the biggest factors working against Sprewell and the Knicks was that Ewing was unable to play because of injury against the Spurs’ big lineup.
“Going against David Robinson and Tim Duncan, we needed Patrick,” he admitted. “We were at a disadvantage, that’s the one thing that sticks out for me is wondering what those finals would’ve been like if we had Patrick…I still think about it. For people like Robert Horry, how many players are that lucky? It just doesn’t happen.”
While the team was loaded with talent, it was also led by a relentless and spectacular coach in Jeff Van Gundy.
“He doesn’t sleep at all,” said Sprewell. “We’d get off the plane at two, three in the morning and he would go to his office and watch the game four times. We’d come to practice and he’s just getting on us like ‘I saw the game four times, Latrell you didn’t do this’…that’s why he looks tired all the time.”
The Knicks have been on something of a coaching carousal over the past decade and Sprewell couldn’t help but question why his former teammate and, quite possibly, the most famous Knick ever hasn’t been given an opportunity.
“I can’t understand why he isn’t with the Knicks. I thought he’d have an open door to be a coach of the Knicks,” said Sprewell. Ewing has been an assistant coach with the Charlotte Hornets for the past few seasons.
Sprewell wasn’t shy when it came to talking about the Knicks’ biggest thorn for a number of years: Michael Jordan. He had a certain reverence for the player who is often called the greatest to ever play.
“I do remember being star struck when I saw him,” recalled Sprewell. “I think I stared at him for like 10 seconds. He was my idol; he was the guy I wanted to be like…it took me a year or two just to get over that.”
When Sprewell came into the league in 1992, Jordan was already established as the most dangerous player in the NBA. While he was considered a tough-nosed defender, guarding Jordan was just something else and proved to be the only player he was ever truly phased by.
“I was like a deer in headlights,” he continued. “Offensively, defensively, he was the best. You just couldn’t do anything. He had moves like the fade away, you can’t stop it. He had all the moves. Right shoulder, left shoulder, up and under, anything you could think of, he could do on the court. He made all his free throws, you couldn’t foul him. If you did, the refs would blow the whistle.”
Sprewell talks about his Minnesota days with friends like Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell while also talking about feeling “out of place” during the interview. Listen to the full interview to hear more of Sprewell’s conversation with Michael Rapaport.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.