Latrell Sprewell

What was the Accusation?

On December 1, 1997, Golden State Warriors player Latrell Sprewell and his coach P.J. Carlesimo got into a serious confrontation that somehow led Sprewell to put his arms around Carlesimo’s throat and choke him while threatening to kill him. The two were separated and Sprewell went to the locker room only to return 20 minutes later and attempt to continue his assault on the coach. Carlesimo stated after that incident that there were harsh words exchanged between the two and Sprewell was asked to leave practice, leading to physical confrontation. Two days after the incident, Sprewell apologized to his family, friends and fans, but not to Carlesimo. He said the coach had bombarded him with “verbal abuse,” provoking the attack.  He indicated privately that he had no intention of apologizing to Carlesimo. The NBA suspended Sprewell for a full calendar year.  Believing he was being treated unfairly, he hired the famed attorney Johnnie Cochran and sued the NBA.  In the lawsuit, Cochran called the suspension “arbitrary and capricious” and suggested that Sprewell was deprived of his due process rights in not being allowed to tell his side of the story.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Attacking the Accuser, Minimization, Provocation, Mortification



“I was willing to meet with the team and the league after being suspended, and it just seemed like no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I hope that the league would at least afford me the opportunity to come out and just hear me. That’s all I really wanted to do, was just to tell what happened. And no one was willing to listen at the time.”

“My career didn’t happen overnight, and I don’t think it should have been taken away from me overnight.”

“There was just a buildup of anger and frustration and having it all bottled up and not being able to express myself. At that point, it just came to a head,”

“I wasn’t choking P.J. that hard. I mean, he could breathe.”

“I want people to know I’m not a bad guy. I never said I shouldn’t be punished for what I did. We just said the punishment was excessive.”


Dwyer, K. (2013, March 18). P.J. Carlesimo reflects on his altercation with Latrell Sprewell, 15 years later. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved from:–nba.html

Heisler, M. (1997, December 10).  Sprewell gives coach public apology for choking him. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from:

Steele, D. (1997, December 2). Latrell Sprewell suspended for attacking, choking coach. SF Gate. Retrieved from:

Wise, M. (1997, December 3). Sprewell attack stuns league. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Wise, M. (1997, December 10). Sprewell Apologizes but Criticizes the N.B.A. New York Times. Retrieved from: