Christian Laettner

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Christian Laettner
Christian Laettner at Yahoo event.jpg
Laettner in 2014
Personal information
Born (1969-08-17) August 17, 1969 (age 50)
Angola, New York
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)
Listed weight 238 lb (108 kg)
Career information
High school Nichols School (Buffalo, New York)
College Duke (1988–1992)
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
Career history
As player:
19921996 Minnesota Timberwolves
19961999 Atlanta Hawks
19992000 Detroit Pistons
2000–2001 Dallas Mavericks
20012004 Washington Wizards
2004–2005 Miami Heat
2011–2012 Jacksonville Giants (ABA)
As coach:
2012 Fort Wayne Mad Ants (asst.)
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
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2010

Christian Donald Laettner (/ˈltnər/, LAYT-nər; born August 17, 1969) is a retired basketball player whose hall-of-fame career for the Duke Blue Devils is widely regarded as one of the greatest in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history. He was the star player on the back-to-back National Championship teams of 1991 and 1992.[1] He is particularly famous for his iconic game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 regional final and for the hatred he received from opposing fans.

As the NCAA player of the year, 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 different teams; the highlight was an All-Star Game selection in 1997 while on the Atlanta Hawks.

Early life

Christian Laettner was born and raised in Angola, New York (near Buffalo and Niagara Falls) to a blue-collar Roman Catholic family.[2] 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.[3] Both boys also frequently worked as farm laborers to supplement their allowance.[2]

For high school 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.[lower-alpha 1] During his career he scored over 2,000 points, setting the school record, and the team won two state titles and reached another semifinal.[2] He was a much sought-after college recruit.[lower-alpha 2]

College basketball

Laettner attended Duke University and played for the basketball team under coach Mike Krzyzewski from 1988–92. As the team's star player his final two seasons, he led them to the first two national titles in school history.[lower-alpha 3] A four-year starter, he also contributed to their runner-up finish his sophomore year and final four appearance his freshman year.[lower-alpha 4] 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.[4] 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.[5] His career is widely regarded among the best in college history,[lower-alpha 5] and he is enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.[1]

NCAA tournament records

  • Most points scored: 407[6]
  • Most free throws made: 142
  • Most free throw attempts: 167
  • Most games won: 21
  • Most games played: 23

Clutch performances

Laettner had several clutch performances in the NCAA tournament.[3] 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 swished a jumper as time expired. He also swished the game-winning free throws against undefeated and heavily-favored UNLV in the 1991 semifinal, avenging UNLV's 30 point victory in the 1990 final. He then led Duke to its first championship, defeating Kansas in the final, and was honored as the tournament's most outstanding player.

Laettner is especially known for his back-to-the-basket, turn-around jumper[lower-alpha 6] that ended the intensely competitive 1992 regional final, a game many critics rate among the greatest in college history.[3][7][8] 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".[9]

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.[lower-alpha 7] In 2006 The Best Damn Sports Show Period ranked it the fifth most memorable moment in sports history.[10]

Widely reviled

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.[11] This led to ESPN's creation of the 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner that explored five factors for this widespread and persistent hatred: privilege, race, bullying, greatness, and physical appearance.[3] 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 disagreed with the vehement backlash that he should have been ejected from the game.[12]

Olympics, NBA, and post-NBA basketball

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.[13] The team is considered one of the greatest in sports history[14] and was inducted into both the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[15]

Drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves,[lower-alpha 8] Laettner played 13 years in the NBA, from 1992–2005, scoring 11,121 points and grabbing 5,806 rebounds.[4] 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.[4]

Despite his achievements, Laettner's NBA career was characterized by transience.[3] He played for six different teams,[lower-alpha 9] was traded six times, and never spent more than three full seasons anywhere.[4] In 2004 he was suspended several games for using marijuana.[16]

Since 2011 he has operated numerous youth training camps.[17] He also played some semi-pro games[18] and briefly served as an assistant coach in the NBA Development League.[19]

Personal and business life

Laettner lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with his wife and children and has become an avid muskellunge fisherman.[20][21][22] He has also donated generously to his alma maters.[lower-alpha 10]

He maintains a close friendship with Duke teammate Brian Davis.[3] They have pursued several business ventures together, including real-estate development in Durham,[25] a Major League Soccer team,[26] and an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies.[27] Some legal problems have also occurred.[28]

Awards and honors

  • Two-time NCAA Champion (1991, 1992)
  • 1991 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
  • 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)[29]
  • 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")

See also


  1. 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."[2]
  2. 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.[2]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. As stated by Jalen Rose, Gene Wojciechowski, Jay Bilas, and others.[3]
  6. immediately after catching Grant Hill's well-thrown 75 foot inbounds pass
  7. including those of Allstate in 2003 and Laettner's reenactment for Vitamin Water in 2009
  8. after Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning; incidentally all three would be teammates on the Miami Heat during Laettner's final season
  9. the Timberwolves, Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, and Miami Heat
  10. $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[23] and, in partnership with 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.[24]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Christian Laettner at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Wojciechowski, Gene (January 10, 2012). "How can you be that confident?". Retrieved January 11, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 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.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Laettner's Duke and NBA statistics at
  5. "Duke Legends". Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. " Mailbox: Christian Laettner". Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Kentucky and Duke: As Good As It Gets
  8. "SI on Campus: 16 Greatest Games". Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "The 2002 ESPY Awards – ESPY Awards past winners". Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Best Damn's Top 50 Unforgettable Sports Moments". 2009-02-04. Archived from the original on 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2012-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Most Hated College Basketball Player
  12. "Christian Laettner tries to make amends for infamous stomp". 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2012-03-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "The Original Dream Team". 1992-08-08. Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers". Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. CBC Sports. "NBA suspends Wizards' Laettner" 15 January 2004. Accessed 06 February 2008.
  17. Christian Laettner Basketball Academy
  18. "Getting to Know ... Christian Laettner". Retrieved 2012-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. J.E. Miller (2012-01-20). "Christian Laettner Joins NBA Mad Ants". Retrieved 2012-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 30 Seconds with Christian Laettner,, March 29, 2009.
  21. Smits, Garry (2012-02-12). "Christian Laettner never lost his taste for the game". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2012-06-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Best, Neil. Christian Laettner doesn't hate the film ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’. Newsday. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  23. Christian Laettner NBA bio (archived from 2004)
  24. "Laettner, Davis Give $2 Million to Legacy Fund, New Athletic Facility". 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2011-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Duke buys property in West Village from failed Davis-Laettner venture
  26. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Owner sets May 1 deadline to take team off market". Retrieved April 28, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Stych, Ed; Producer, Web (2012-03-18). "Ex-Timberwolves Laettner, Davis again avoid jail time over Dawkins debt". Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved 2012-03-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Christian Laettner at the Polish Sports HOF

External links