I Hate Christian Laettner Doc of the Week

I Hate Christian Laettner

His record is second to none. He is considered one of the greatest players in college basketball history and yet, 25 years on from his varsity days, he is still widely reviled as one of the most hated players ever to step on to a court. What have people got against Christian Laettner? BT Sport 1 Fri, Sep 29th 04.00

Christian Laettner was a superstar of college basketball. He led his college, Duke University in North Carolina, to back-to-back National Championship titles before enjoying a hugely successful 13-year career in the NBA with six different teams. He was the only college player to be selected for the original USA ‘Dream Team’ which annihilated all opposition on their way to gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Born in upstate New York to a second generation Polish immigrant family, Laettner has one of the best, if not the best, records in college basketball history. He is rated as one of the greatest varsity players of all time, yet he remains widely disliked to this day. Indeed, more than 20 years after his college playing career ended, he topped a poll of the most hated players in the history of the sport. Why?

Directed by Roy Karpf for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, I Hate Christian Laettner seeks to shed some light on this phenomenon. The piece includes interviews with many of the main protagonists at that time, among them Laettner himself, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bobby Hurley, Jalen Rose, Jim Calhoun, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and even the likes of Ken Jeong and Ric Flair. Opinion is divided – some love him, others hate him – but they all had massive respect for what he could do on the court.


The documentary focuses on one of the most controversial incidents in Laettner’s college playing career – Duke’s regional final victory over Kentucky. Laettner won the game in the dying seconds with an audacious basket that is replayed almost every time that a college basketball game is televised. One US sports show even rated it as the fifth most memorable sporting moment in history. However, controversy still reigns as to whether Laettner should have even been on the court at the time, having earlier stepped on the chest of an opponent who was lying on the ground. It was deemed a technical foul, but many felt that the censure should have been more severe.

There is no doubt that Laettner was cocky. He offended opposition and team-mates alike. He talked the talk for sure, but he could also walk the walk and that infuriated people even more. They wanted to see him brought down a peg or two, but it never happened. Perhaps that explains the longevity of the ambivalence towards him.

You can make your own mind up after watching this documentary. By the time the credits roll, will you hate Christian Laettner too?

Images: Getty

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