Christian Donald Laettner (//, LAYT-nər; born August 17, 1969) is an American former basketball player. His college 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 Duke 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 was the only collegian selected for the elite "Dream Team" that dominated the 1992 Olympics and won the gold medal. As a member of the "Dream Team", Laettner is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, and FIBA Hall of Fame, while he is enshrined for his individual career in the College 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, being named as an All-Star in 1997.
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, a newspaper press plant printer, was of Polish descent and his grandparents spoke Polish as their first language; his mother Bonnie was a teacher. 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, breaking the school record set by teammate Ron Torgalski, 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 to 1992 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 records
- 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.
In the 1992 East Regional Final, a game many critics rate among the greatest in college basketball history, Laettner hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating turn-around jumper that has since become known as simply The Shot. Over the course of the game, he shot 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.[f] 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: race, privilege, 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.
Drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves,[g] Laettner played 13 years in the NBA, from 1992 to 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 relative 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 for several games for using marijuana.
National team career
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.
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.
He is divorced with three children.
|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|
Awards and honors
- Summer Olympics gold medal winner (1992)
- Pan American Games bronze medal winner (1991)
- FIBA World Championship bronze medal winner (1990)
- Tournament of the Americas gold medal winner (1992)
- Tournament of the Americas silver medal winner (1989)
- Goodwill Games silver medal winner (1990)
- 2× NCAA champion (1991, 1992)
- NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1991)
- Consensus National College Player of the Year (1992)
- Consensus first-team All-American (1992)
- Consensus second-team All-American (1991)
- 2× [[NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament|NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team) (1991, 1992)
- ACC Player of the Year (1992)
- ACC Player of the Year (1992)
- 2× ACC Athlete of the Year (1991, 1992)
- 2× First-team All-ACC (1991, 1992)
- Second-team All-ACC (1990)
- ACC Tournament MVP 1992
- Oscar Robertson Trophy (1992)
- NABC Player of the Year (1992)
- NABC Player of the Year (1992)
- Sporting News College Player of the Year (1992)
- AP College Basketball Player of the Year (1992)
- John R. Wooden Award (1992)
- Naismith College Player of the Year (1992)
- No. 32 jersey retired by Duke in 1992
- 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")
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball players with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball career games played leaders
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball career free throw scoring leaders
- 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.
- 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.
- Men's Tournament of the Americas – 1992, USA Basketball. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
- 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
- Rippey, Sharon (December 19, 2007). "Ron Torgalski '89 Inducted into Athletic Hall of Fame". Hamilton College. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- 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.
- CBC Sports. "NBA suspends Wizards' Laettner" January 15, 2004. Accessed February 6, 2008.
- "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.
- "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
- "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