Christian Donald Laettner (//, LAYT-nər; born August 17, 1969) is an American former professional basketball player, entrepreneur, and basketball coach. He had a distinguished college and national career, and played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for thirteen seasons, from 1992–2005. He was also a minority holder in the Major League Soccer (MLS) club D.C. United from 2007 until 2009, when William Chang bought out the remaining investors to take full control of the club. He is a current assistant coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League.
Laettner played college basketball for the Duke University Blue Devils, starring on the 1991 and 1992 NCAA champion teams. He was the only college player selected for the 1992 United States men's Olympic team, nicknamed the "Dream Team." Sometimes considered the greatest team ever assembled in any sport, the Dream Team went on to win the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Laettner was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1992 NBA draft and went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA.
Laettner was born in Angola, New York to a blue-collar Catholic family. Although the Laettner name was German, his father George was of Polish descent. George had attended a Polish-American school, and his grandparents spoke Polish as their first language. The young Christian and his brother frequently worked as farm laborers to supplement their allowance.
Laettner attended Nichols School, where he played high school basketball. Although he received a financial aid package that paid a substantial part of his tuition at the exclusive prep school, his family had to sacrifice to send him there, and he also did janitorial work at the school to defray some of the cost. According to ESPN.com columnist Gene 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.
In his freshman year, Laettner once scored 67 points in a game. He set the school record for most points at Nichols by scoring over 2000 points in his career. During his career at Nichols, the school won two state titles and reached the state semifinals another time.
Laettner received his first recruiting letter, from nearby St. Bonaventure University, as a freshman. 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.
Laettner attended Duke University, and played for the Duke Blue Devils men's basketball team. He is one of only four players (including teammates Greg Koubek and Brian Davis) to play in four consecutive Final Fours, and the only one to ever start in all four Final Fours. He owns the record for most tournament games played (23) out of a maximum possible of 24 in four years at that time. Laettner's #32 jersey was retired in 1992, making him the sixth of thirteen players so honored by Duke. He averaged 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game at Duke and is the all-time three-point shooting percentage leader at Duke with 48.5%.
NCAA Tournament Records Held:
- Most points scored: 407
- Most free throws made: 142
- Most free throw attempts: 167
- Most games played: 23
Laettner is especially known for his last-second, back-to-the-basket, turn-around, game-winning jump shot on March 28 in Duke's dramatic 104–103 victory over Kentucky in the East regional final, played at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, of the 1992 NCAA Tournament, acclaimed by many as the "greatest college basketball game ever played." Footage of Laettner's buzzer beater shot is frequently included in televised montages depicting college basketball and the NCAA tournament; in 2003 it was used in a nationally televised commercial by Allstate. In 2009 Laettner appeared in a commercial for Vitamin Water, again replaying the shot with a Vitamin Water bottle; the ad also features Rick Pitino, who was the coach at Kentucky in 1992. In the game as a whole, Laettner made ten of ten shots from the field and ten of ten from the free throw line. His performance in the game as a whole earned him a 1993 ESPY Award for "Outstanding Performance Under Pressure," and the shot in particular received the 1993 ESPY for "College Basketball Play of the Year." Laettner also received the 1993 ESPY for "Outstanding College Basketball Performer of the Year." The shot was also named the most memorable basketball shot of all-time (including the NBA, college, and high school) by The Best Damn Sports Show Period in 2007 and the fifth most unforgettable sports moment of all-time across all sports in 2006.
Laettner's shot was clouded somewhat by an incident earlier in the game, in which Laettner intentionally stepped on the chest of Kentucky Wildcat forward Aminu Timberlake, who was lying on the floor. Laettner later said, "It was just from the emotion of the game. There was maybe too much adrenaline flowing, but it was a big mistake. It's worthy of a technical. I don't think it's worthy of getting kicked out of the game even though all the Kentucky fans will disagree with me on that. But it looks horrible. It's one of the things that I'm embarrassed about in my Duke career. There aren't many things, but that's one of them. Coach K was not happy with me about doing that. And he made a point to let me know about it a few times the following week going into the Final Four."
In 1992 he was selected for the men's Olympic basketball team, which became known as the "Dream Team". He was the only college player selected to the roster, beating out Shaquille O'Neal for the final spot. The team went on to win the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics, and has been called the greatest sports team ever assembled.
During his 13-year NBA career, Laettner was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Atlanta Hawks, the Detroit Pistons, the Dallas Mavericks, the Washington Wizards, the Golden State Warriors (though he never played a game for them), and the Miami Heat. Though Laettner never became the superstar some expected, he was voted onto the All-Rookie First Team in 1992–93 and was an All-Star reserve in 1996–97.
Laettner was drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves after Shaquille O'Neal (1st overall) and Alonzo Mourning (2nd overall) in the 1992 NBA Draft. (All three would later play together on the 2004–05 Miami Heat.)
Laettner led the Timberwolves in rebound average per game during all three full seasons playing for them, with a 3-year total of 1923, and an average of 8.28 boards per game. He also led them in scoring average during the 1993-94-season, and placed 2nd in scoring in both 1992-93 (behind Doug West) and 1994-95 (behind Isaiah Rider). During the 1993-94 season, he also placed 2nd in assists per game (behind Micheal Williams), with a 4.4 average. He also placed second in steals per game in his first two seasons, only surpassed by Williams, who (along with Tom Gugliotta) failed to qualify during the 1994-95 season, thus securing Laettner the team lead that season. Laettner also led the Timberwolves in total blocks all three seasons, as the team average leader, Luc Longley, failed to play in as many games.
Even though he had been the team's leader for more than 3 and a half seasons, the Wolves were still struggling in the standings (during his tenure they had a paltry winning-record of 75-222). During the 1995-96 season, at the league's trading deadline, the Wolves sent Christian Laettner and backup center Sean Rooks to the Atlanta Hawks for the expiring contracts of center Andrew Lang and guard Spud Webb - both players who would only last that one season with the Wolves. After the season, the Wolves would also rid themselves of their troubled star-guard Isaiah Rider, and the two trades ended up opening up more playing-time for both Kevin Garnett and Tom Gugliotta, who along with Stephon Marbury became the new faces of the franchise.
Further NBA career
The following year, Laettner made his only All-Star game appearance as a member of the Hawks. After a strong full season with the team, he then lost his place in the starting lineup to Alan Henderson. Laettner was then traded to the Pistons, but missed most of the 1998–99 season due to a torn Achilles tendon. After that, Laettner's playing time and numbers saw a decline, and he bounced on to Washington, where he was suspended five games without pay in 2003–04 after failing three drug tests. The league would not identify what substance(s) Laettner tested positive for.
He finally wrapped up his NBA career in 2004–05 as a reserve with the Miami Heat, where he was teamed up with college rival Shaq, and retired after the season - one year before the Heat became NBA champions.In 2008, Christian Laettner was inducted into the National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame.
Laettner finished with career averages of 13.3 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He also shot 47.8% from the floor and 82.1% from the free throw line.
Business ventures and philanthropy
Laettner founded the community development company Blue Devil Ventures (BDV) with former Duke teammate Brian Davis and Duke alumnus Tom Niemann. In 1995, BDV began developing a community in downtown Durham, North Carolina named "West Village." BDV's website describes West Village as a "mixed-use, upscale community consisting of the adaptive-reuse of historic tobacco warehouses built between 1899 and 1926 and located in the Brightleaf District."
In 2001, Laettner donated $1 million to his high school, Nichols School in Buffalo, New York to create a scholarship fund for students in financial need and to aid in the completion of a new gymnasium. In 2005, Laettner and Davis donated $2 million to Duke's men's basketball program to endow an athletic scholarship and support the construction of a planned athletics center and basketball practice facility. Their donation to the Duke Legacy Fund—which seeks to make the Duke basketball program financially self-sufficient—represents the largest donation by former Duke basketball players to the program since Grant Hill endowed a $1 million scholarship in 2000.
In October 2006, an investment group including Laettner and former teammate Brian Davis had agreed to purchase the 70% share of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies from majority owner Michael Heisley. Laettner considered coming out of retirement to play with the team, but the purchase fell through when Davis and Laettner could not come up with the $252 million needed to purchase Heisley's controlling share. Laettner and Davis (as minority owners) were successful in their bid to purchase operating rights for Major League Soccer's D.C. United. Laettner had previously joined Jason Kidd and other investors in the purchase of a AAA baseball team in Phoenix.
In July 2011, Laettner formed a training camp called the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy.
In 2012, it was reported that Laettner, Davis and another business partner owed close to $30 million to various creditors. Attorneys for one of these creditors, former Duke basketball player and current Stanford University head basketball coach Johnny Dawkins, twice filed motions to find Laettner and Davis in contempt of court for failure to disclose financial records pertaining to debt collection activities. While US District Court judge Beryl A. Howell declined to find Laettner and Davis in contempt (which could have resulted in jail time), she ordered the disclosures in two separate rulings.
In October 2011, Laettner joined the roster of the Jacksonville Giants of the ABA, agreeing to appear in six games over the season. During the team's season opener, Laettner was involved in a 3-point game-winner with three seconds left that ended with the Giants winning over the Gulf Coast Flash. Laettner inbounded the ball, and Currye Todd hit the shot.
On January 20, 2012, it was announced that Christian Laettner would join the NBA D-League Fort Wayne Mad Ants as an assistant coach. 
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball players with 145 games played
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball players with 2000 points and 1000 rebounds
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball career free throw scoring leaders
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- 1992 Oscar Robertson Trophy
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