Christian Donald Laettner (//, LAYT-nər; born August 17, 1969) is a retired American basketball player whose Hall of Fame career for the Duke Blue Devils is widely regarded as one of the best in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history.[a] He was the star player on the back-to-back National Championship teams of 1991 and 1992, and the NCAA player of the year in his senior year. He is particularly famous for his game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 tournament and for the hatred he received from opposing fans.
Laettner in 2014
|Born||August 17, 1969|
Angola, New York
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight||235 lb (107 kg)|
|High school||Nichols School (Buffalo, New York)|
|NBA draft||1992 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall|
|Selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Playing career||1992–2005, 2011–2012|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
|Number||4, 32, 44|
|2012||Fort Wayne Mad Ants (assistant)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||11,121 (12.8 ppg)|
|Rebounds||5,806 (6.7 rpg)|
|Assists||2,224 (2.6 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2010
Laettner was the only collegian selected for the elite "Dream Team" that dominated the 1992 Olympics; the team is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, then played 13 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for six teams. The highlight was being selected for the 1997 All-Star Game while with the Atlanta Hawks.
Christian Laettner was born and raised in Angola, New York (near Buffalo and Niagara Falls) to a blue-collar Roman Catholic family. His father George was of Polish descent and his grandparents spoke Polish as their first language. Christian's older brother Christopher was a strong influence, often bullying young Christian, which helped instill a stern competitive drive. Both boys also frequently worked as farm laborers to supplement their allowance.
Laettner attended the private Nichols School; although he received a financial aid package that paid a substantial part of his tuition, his family had to sacrifice to send him there, and he also did janitorial work at the school to defray some of the cost.[b] During his career he scored over 2,000 points, setting the school record, and the team won two state titles and reached another semifinal. He was a much sought-after college recruit.[c]
Laettner attended Duke University and played for the basketball team from 1988–92 under coach Mike Krzyzewski. As the team's star player his final two seasons, he led the Blue Devils to the first two national titles in school history.[d] A four-year starter, he also contributed to their runner-up finish his sophomore year and Final Four appearance in his freshman year.[e] Thus, in total, he played 23 out of a maximum possible 24 NCAA tournament games, winning 21; both are records.
For his career, Laettner averaged 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while making almost half of his three-pointers. He scored 21.5 points per game his senior season, garnering every major national player of the year award; Duke retired his No. 32 jersey later that year. His career is widely regarded among the best in college history,[a] and he is enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
NCAA tournament recordsEdit
- Most points scored: 407
- Most free throws made: 142
- Most free throw attempts: 167
- Most games won: 21
- Most games played: 23
Laettner had several clutch performances in the NCAA tournament. His most famous was the 1992 regional final against Kentucky, which was foreshadowed by the 1990 regional final against UConn; in both games Duke trailed by one point with two seconds remaining in overtime before Laettner made a jumper as time expired. He also swished the game-winning free throws against undefeated and heavily-favored UNLV in the 1991 semifinal, which avenged UNLV's 30 point victory in the 1990 final. He then led Duke to its first championship, defeating Kansas in the final, and was selected as the tournament's most outstanding player.
Laettner is especially known for his game-winning, buzzer-beating, turn-around jumper[f] in the intensely competitive 1992 East Regional Final, a game many critics rate among the greatest in college basketball history. He was in rarefied form throughout, shooting a perfect ten of ten field goals and ten of ten free throws for 31 points. He then finished his college career by leading Duke to its second consecutive national title. The following year ESPN awarded him both "Outstanding Performance Under Pressure" and "College Basketball Play of the Year" for the Kentucky game, also awarding him "Outstanding College Basketball Performer of the Year".
The game-winning shot against Kentucky became a cultural icon, having been frequently televised in college basketball montages. Several companies have also featured it in their commercials.[g] In 2006 The Best Damn Sports Show Period ranked it the fifth most memorable moment in sports history.
Laettner was widely reviled by opposing fans throughout his career, to the extent that more than 20 years after graduating from Duke, he was voted the most hated college basketball player in history in an ESPN online poll. This led to ESPN's creation of the 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner that explored five factors which the filmmakers believe explain this widespread and persistent hatred: privilege, race, bullying, greatness, and physical appearance. He was particularly resented for stepping on the chest of Kentucky player Aminu Timberlake during the 1992 regional final, which the referees deemed a technical foul; Laettner expressed regret for his misconduct but believed that ejection would have been too harsh a consequence.
As the national player of the year, Laettner was the only collegian selected for the prestigious "Dream Team" that won the 1992 Olympic gold medal in dominant fashion. He averaged 4.8 points per game. The team is considered one of the greatest in sports history and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, FIBA Hall of Fame, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves,[h] Laettner played 13 years in the NBA, from 1992–2005, scoring 11,121 points and grabbing 5,806 rebounds. His first six seasons were his best, averaging 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while starting almost all of them. He also was selected to the All-Rookie First Team in 1993 and the All-Star Game in 1997 while with the Atlanta Hawks. His time on the Hawks was his most successful NBA team experience, twice reaching the second round of the playoffs.
Despite his achievements, Laettner's NBA career was characterized by transience. He played for six different teams, was traded six times, and never spent more than three full seasons anywhere. In 2004, he was suspended several games for using marijuana.
Regular season statisticsEdit
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
Laettner maintains a close friendship with Duke teammate Brian Davis. They have pursued several business ventures together, including real-estate development in Durham, a Major League Soccer team, and an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies. Some legal problems, primarily regarding unpaid debts, have also occurred.
Since 2011 he has operated numerous youth basketball training camps. He also played one season in a semi-pro league and briefly served as an assistant coach in the NBA Development League. For The Z Team, an Olympic Channel reality show that has former Olympic athletes help struggling sports teams, he worked with the Garinger High School boys basketball team for a week.
Awards and honorsEdit
- 1990 All-ACC Second Team
- 1990 ACC All-Tournament Second Team
- 1990–91 Consensus All-America (1990)
- Two-time NCAA Champion (1991, 1992)
- 1991 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
- 1991 NABC All-American Second Team
- 1991 AP All-American Second Team
- 1991 USBWA All-American Second Team
- 1991 All-ACC First Team (Media)
- 1991 ACC All-Tournament First Team
- 1991 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Teams (AP)
- 1991 UPI All-American Second Team
- 1991 UPI All-American Second Team
- 1992 AP All-American First Team
- 1992 Oscar Robertson Trophy (USBWA Player of the Year)
- 1992 USBWA All-American First Team
- 1992 UPI All-American First Team
- 1992 ACC Player of the Year (Media)
- 1992 ACC Tournament MVP
- 1992 ACC All-Tournament First Team
- 1992 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Teams (AP)
- 1992 AP Player of the Year
- 1992 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year
- 1992 Consensus All-America
- 1992 NABC Player of the Year
- 1992 Naismith Award
- 1992 Rupp Trophy
- 1992 Sporting News Player of the Year
- 1992 USBWA Player of the Year
- 1992 Wooden Award
- 1992 National College Basketball Player of the Year
- No. 32 jersey retired by Duke in 1992
- 1992 Olympic Gold Medal winner
- 1997 NBA All-Star
- National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame (class of 2008)
- U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (class of 2009 as a member of the "Dream Team")
- College Basketball Hall of Fame (class of 2010)
- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (class of 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team")
- FIBA Hall of Fame (class of 2017 as a member of the "Dream Team")
- As stated by Jalen Rose, Gene Wojciechowski, Jay Bilas, and others.
- According to Wojciechowski, "He was, in all probability, the poorest student at the school and almost certainly the only one whose parents ordered his clothes from the Sears catalog, which was the one place they could find pants that fit his growing frame."
- As a freshman, Laettner received his first recruiting letter, from nearby St. Bonaventure University. The following year, he became a national recruit, sought after by virtually every major Division I program. He first narrowed his list to 11 schools, and eventually decided he preferred the brand of basketball played in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). By his senior year, he decided he would make only three official visits—to Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia.
- Duke was the first repeat champion since UCLA in 1973 and remains one of two teams, along with Florida in 2007, to defend its title after the NCAA tournament expanded to six rounds in 1985.
- earning the distinction of being one of only four players (including teammates Greg Koubek and Brian Davis) to play in four consecutive final fours, while being the only one to start every game.
- immediately after catching Grant Hill's well-thrown 75-foot (23 m) inbounds pass
- including those of Allstate in 2003 and Laettner's reenactment for Vitamin Water in 2009
- after Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning; incidentally all three would be teammates on the Miami Heat during Laettner's final season
- $1 million to Nichols School to create a scholarship fund for students in financial need and to aid in the completion of a new gymnasium and, in partnership with Brian Davis, $2 million to Duke's men's basketball program to endow an athletic scholarship and support construction of an athletics center and practice facility.
- Christian Laettner at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame
- Wojciechowski, Gene (January 10, 2012). "How can you be that confident?". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 11, 2012. Excerpted from The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds that Changed Basketball, Blue Rider Books (imprint of Penguin Group USA), 2012.
- ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner
- Laettner's Duke and NBA statistics at basketball-reference.com
- "Duke Legends". Dukeupdate.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "WashingtonWizards.com Mailbox: Christian Laettner". Nba.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "Kentucky vs. Duke (March 28, 1992)". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- "SI on Campus: 16 Greatest Games". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "The 2002 ESPY Awards – ESPY Awards past winners". Espn.go.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "Best Damn's Top 50 Unforgettable Sports Moments". February 4, 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Titus, Mark (March 19, 2013). "Most Hated College Basketball Player, Day 7: There Can Only Be One". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- "Christian Laettner tries to make amends for infamous stomp". Rivals.yahoo.com. October 5, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
- "USA Olympic Basketball Team Rosters and Stats - Basketball-Reference.com". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- "The Original Dream Team". NBA.com. August 8, 1992. Archived from the original on May 20, 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – Hall of Famers". Hoophall.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
- CBC Sports. "NBA suspends Wizards' Laettner" January 15, 2004. Accessed February 6, 2008.
- "Duke buys property in West Village from failed Davis-Laettner venture". Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- "MacFarlane leads group in purchase of Major League Soccer's D.C. United". Archived from the original on March 18, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2007.
- "Owner sets May 1 deadline to take team off market". Retrieved April 28, 2007.
- Stych, Ed; Producer, Web (March 18, 2012). "Ex-Timberwolves Laettner, Davis again avoid jail time over Dawkins debt". Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
- "The CLBA". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- "Getting to Know ... Christian Laettner". Jacksonvillemag.com. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- J.E. Miller (January 20, 2012). "Christian Laettner Joins NBA Mad Ants". Milleronsports.com. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Fowler, Scott (January 28, 2018). "Would you dare put Christian Laettner in charge of a high school basketball team?". www.charlotteobserver.com. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- 30 Seconds with Christian Laettner, nytimes.com, March 29, 2009.
- Smits, Garry (February 12, 2012). "Christian Laettner never lost his taste for the game". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Best, Neil. Christian Laettner doesn't hate the film ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’. Newsday. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- Christian Laettner Sued His Own Business for $10 Million. Now Some Former Partners Are Suing Him. David Hudnall, Indy Week March 9, 2016
- Brief[permanent dead link]
- "NBA.com: Christian Laettner Bio". July 16, 2006. Archived from the original on July 16, 2006. Retrieved October 30, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Laettner, Davis Give $2 Million to Legacy Fund, New Athletic Facility". Dukenews.duke.edu. July 28, 2005. Archived from the original on September 7, 2005. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- Christian Laettner Archived April 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at the Polish Sports HOF
- Career statistics and player information from Basketball-Reference.com