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 45)
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
Pro career 1992–2012
Position Power forward / Center
Number 4, 32, 44
Coaching career 2012–present
Career history
As player:
19921996 Minnesota Timberwolves
1996–1999 Atlanta Hawks
1999–2000 Detroit Pistons
2000–2001 Dallas Mavericks
2001–2004 Washington Wizards
2004–2005 Miami Heat
2011–2012 Jacksonville Giants (ABA)
As coach:
2012 Fort Wayne Mad Ants (D-League) (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[1] for the Duke University Blue Devils is widely regarded among the best in NCAA history,[2] as he was the star player on the back-to-back National Championship teams of 1991 and 1992.[3] He is particularly famous for his iconic game-winning shot against Kentucky during the 1992 regional final and for the hatred he received from opposing fans.[4]

After his senior year at Duke, Laettner was the only collegiate selected for the elite "Dream Team" that dominated the 1992 Olympics.[5] He then played 13 seasons in the NBA for six different teams, the highlight of which was an All-Star Game selection in 1997.

Early life[edit]

Christian Donald Laettner was born in Angola, New York (near Buffalo and Niagara Falls) to a blue-collar Roman Catholic family.[6] 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.[4] Both boys also frequently worked as farm laborers to supplement their allowance.[6]

For high school Laettner attended the private Nichols School; 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 biographer 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."[6] During his career he scored over 2,000 points, setting the school record, and the team won two state titles and reached another semifinal.[6]

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.[6]

College basketball[edit]

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. 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.

A four-year starter, Laettner also contributed to their runner-up finish his sophmore year and final four appearance his freshman year, 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. Thus, in total, he played 23 out of a maximum possible 24 tournament games, winning 21; both are records.

For his career Laettner averaged 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while making 45.5% of his three-pointers.[7] 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.[8] His career is widely regarded among the best in college history,[2] and he is enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.[1]

NCAA tournament records[edit]

  • Most points scored: 407[9]
  • Most free throws made: 142
  • Most free throw attempts: 167
  • Most games won: 21
  • Most games played: 23

Clutch performances[edit]

Laettner had several clutch performances in the NCAA tournament.[4] His most famous was the 1992 regional final against Kentucky, which was foreshadowed by the 1990 regional final against UConn; in both games Duke was behind 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 that ended the intensely competitive 1992 regional final, a game that has been acclaimed by some critics as the greatest in college basketball history.[4][10] 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 awared 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".[11]

The game-winning shot against Kentucky became a cultural icon, having been televised often, especially in college basketball montages. Several companies have also featured it in their commercials.[12] In 2006 The Best Damn Sports Show Period ranked it the fifth most memorable moment in sports history.[13]

Widely reviled[edit]

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.[14] 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: privelage, race, bullying, greatness, and handsomeness.[4] He was particularly resented for stepping on the chest of a Kentucky player lying on the floor during the 1992 regional final, deemed a technical foul by the referees; he later expressed regret for his misconduct but disagreed with the vehement backlash that he should have been ejected from the game.[15]

Other basketball[edit]


He played for the US national team in the 1990 FIBA World Championship, winning the bronze medal. 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.[5] As a member of the team Laettner was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.[16]

NBA career[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.) He led the Timberwolves in rebound average per game during all three full seasons playing for them, with a 3-year total of 1,923, 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 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.[citation needed]

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 an unflattering win-loss record of 75–222).[17] 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.[citation needed]

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, his playing time and numbers saw a decline, and he bounced on to Washington, where he was suspended for five games without pay in 2003–04 after failing three drug tests.[18] The league initially declined to identify what substance(s) Laettner tested positive for, but Laettner later admitted that he was suspended for marijuana.[19][20]

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 2006, Christian Laettner was inducted into the National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame.[21] He 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.[22]


In October 2011, Laettner briefly came out of retirement, appearing in six games for the Jacksonville Giants of the ABA.[23]

In 2012 he was an assistant coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the NBA Development League.[24]

Personal and business life[edit]

Laettner lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with his wife Lisa Thibault and children.[25][26] He is an avid muskellunge fisherman.[27]


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."[citation needed]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[citation needed]

Business ventures[edit]

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,[30] but the purchase fell through when Davis and Laettner could not come up with the $252 million needed to purchase Heisley's controlling share.[31] Laettner and Davis (as minority owners) were successful in their bid to purchase operating rights for Major League Soccer's D.C. United.[32] He had previously joined Jason Kidd and other investors in the purchase of a AAA baseball team in Phoenix.[28]

In July 2011, Laettner formed a training camp called the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy.[33]

In 2012, it was reported that Laettner, Brian Davis, and another business partner owed almost $30 million to various creditors. Attorneys for one of these creditors, former Duke basketball player and later Stanford 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.[34][35]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Two-time NCAA Champion (1991, 1992)
  • 1991 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
  • 1992 National College Basketball Player of the Year
  • 1992 First Team All-American
  • 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")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christian Laettner at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b As stated by Jalen Rose, Gene Wojciechowski, Jay Bilas, and others in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner.
  3. ^ "Christian Laettner profile". CNN. 2005-03-31. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  4. ^ a b c d e ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner
  5. ^ a b "The Original Dream Team". 1992-08-08. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Wojciechowski, Gene (January 10, 2012). "How can you be that confident?". 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.
  7. ^ his website's biography
  8. ^ "Duke Legends". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  9. ^ " Mailbox: Christian Laettner". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  10. ^ "SI on Campus: 16 Greatest Games". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  11. ^ "The 2002 ESPY Awards – ESPY Awards past winners". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  12. ^ including those of Allstate in 2003 and Laettner's reenactment for Vitamin Water in 2009
  13. ^ "Best Damn's Top 50 Unforgettable Sports Moments". 2009-02-04. Archived from the original on 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  14. ^ Most Hated College Basketball Player
  15. ^ "Christian Laettner tries to make amends for infamous stomp". 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  16. ^ "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers". Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  17. ^ "Southern revival; Ex-Wolf Laettner thrives in Atlanta". Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  18. ^ CBC Sports. "NBA suspends Wizards' Laettner" 15 January 2004. Accessed 06 February 2008.
  19. ^ OutSports. "Laettner suspended", January 14, 2004; accessed January 28, 2010.
  20. ^ I Hate Christian Laettner – aired March 15, 2015.
  21. ^ Christian Laettner - Polish Sports
  22. ^ "Christian Laettner". 
  23. ^ "Getting to Know ... Christian Laettner". Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  24. ^ J.E. Miller (2012-01-20). "Christian Laettner Joins NBA Mad Ants". Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  25. ^ 30 Seconds with Christian Laettner,, March 29, 2009.
  26. ^ Smits, Garry (2012-02-12). "Christian Laettner never lost his taste for the game". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  27. ^ Best, Neil. Christian Laettner doesn't hate the film ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’. Newsday. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  28. ^ a b "Christian Laettner Bio". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  29. ^ "Laettner, Davis Give $2 Million to Legacy Fund, New Athletic Facility". 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  30. ^ "Memphis Grizzlies, Christian Laettner, National Basketball Association". 2006-10-03. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  31. ^ "Owner sets May 1 deadline to take team off market". Retrieved April 28, 2007. 
  32. ^ "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. 
  33. ^ "". 2012-10-01. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  34. ^ "Judge again denies contempt motions". The Herald Sun 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  35. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]