A federal judge ordered Latrell Sprewell's lawyers to pay $153,000 for arguing a lawsuit that challenged the basketball star's 68-game suspension for choking his coach.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker first dismissed the suit in July 1998, gave Sprewell another chance to remedy its defects, then dismissed it again last March. He said the suit was virtually identical to the previous, meritless case, and called it a misuse of the court system.
On Thursday, Walker told the lawyers to pay $113,000 to the NBA's lawyers for their costs of defending against the suit, $35,000 to the Golden State Warriors' lawyers for defense costs, and $5,000 to the court for "this waste of judicial resources."
Sprewell argued with Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice in December 1997, then grabbed him around the neck and threatened to kill him, according to witnesses at his arbitration hearing. After they were separated and Sprewell left the floor to shower and change, he returned and, according to witnesses, punched Carlesimo and threatened him again.
The Warriors initially suspended him for 10 games, then terminated the last three years and $24 million of his contract. The league increased the suspension to a year. But an arbitrator ruled the punishment excessive and ordered Sprewell reinstated in July 1998, reducing his salary loss to $6.4 million.
He was then traded to the New York Knicks and led them to the NBA finals, where they lost to San Antonio.
Sprewell's lawsuit said his punishment was not authorized by the league's union agreement. He also claimed racial discrimination, saying white players had been treated more leniently for physical attacks and also alleging that the Warriors had insisted on broader rights to terminate his contract than they had demanded in white players' contracts.
Walker's ruling in March said the punishment was authorized and the evidence Sprewell cited, even if proven, would not show his treatment was racially motivated.
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