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Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

Commentary: Only Sprewell could be insulted by $10-million offer

November 11, 2004

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I'm worried about Latrell Jr. Daddy is facing a pay cut, and things could get rough.

Minnesota guard Latrell Sprewell scoffed at a $10 million-a-year contract extension last week.

And, really, who could blame him?

"I've got my family to feed," he said.

Sprewell either has some incredibly hungry children, or he's so out of touch with the real world NASA should hire him as a space probe. I checked with a couple of experts.

"He can't be serious," said Janet Bodnar, executive editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

I'm worried that he is. NBA commissioner David Stern rebuked him for saying he might not play hard after the Timberwolves' "insulting" offer. Sprewell, who is making $14.6 million this year, didn't back down.

He said he's being made out to be the bad guy. Then he went out and got a citation for arguing with police at a traffic stop.

In a major upset, Spree blamed the cop. Just as it wasn't his fault when P.J. Carlesimo's throat attacked Spree's hands way back when. The latest incident reconfirmed Sprewell's status as one of sport's leading antiheroes, which explains why Stern detonated.

He doesn't want the face of the NBA to be Sprewell's spoiled scowl.

He doesn't want players to appear clueless about how hard it is for a family of eight to eat, much less spend $400 for a night out at a basketball game.

Most players have a clue, which is why even they must wish Sprewell would stop pleading poverty. It makes it too easy for people to paint them all with the same sarcastic brush.

Not that I would ever do that. After all, it costs an average of $261,270 to raise a child from birth to 17. And that doesn't even include if the kid needs braces.

Sprewell has six hungry mouths to feed. If you round things out, he's spending almost $100,000 a year to raise his children. I ask you -- how can a guy get by on the remaining $14.5 million he's getting paid this year?

Sure, clipping coupons helps. Instead of flying this year, the Sprewells could drive to that vacation in Panama City Beach. Maybe a nice couple in Iowa would sponsor Billy and Ray if they could get them in one of those Sally Struthers ads.

"It sounds like he doesn't have a budget," said Dallas Salisbury, chairman of the American Savings Education Council.

Salisbury has dispensed savings advice to thousands of people, but he never has run across one with Sprewell's predicament. Then I explained about Spree's yacht. And his car collection, featuring his prized V-12 Lamborghini Diablo that can top 200 mph.

"That's the kind of thing that can make it tough to put food on the table," Salisbury said.

Because Sprewell already has banked at least $50 million in his career, you don't really need to worry about his children fighting over that last piece of government cheese. If anything, his lifestyle could cause problems the other way.

"You want to show off, and maybe you didn't have much when you were a kid. You want your kids to have it, so you splurge," Bodnar said. "Just from a family standpoint, it's bad for the kids. You raise them to be spoiled little brats. So you have to impose your own limits."

Limits? There don't seem to be any when it comes to Sprewell's sense of entitlement. That's why we should all be a little worried.

Not that Latrell Jr. and the rest of the kids will go hungry. But that they will turn out like their poor old dad.

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