"I STILL Hate Christian Laettner!" (ESPN 30 For 30)

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ESPN rebroadcast their sponsored short film "I Still Hate Christian Laettner" from their "30 for 30" short-film series.  While I didn't hate Laettner per se, I didn't exactly have much love for Duke (or their coach, Mike Krysevski).


Still, from interviews IN the short with several "haters" (not just of Laettner, or even of Duke), it put things in perspective.


1.  Duke is a Catholic private university in the worker-bee/Protestant (mostly Baptist/Lutheran/Methodist) South.

2.  Duke had a largely-non-Black starting lineup.  Never mind that the starters - regardless of color - could play their butts off (that IS a trend among those that play for Coach K; however, that was just as true of Dean Smith, or Charles "Lefty" Driesell, and Bobby Cremins - at UNC, Maryland (and later Georgia State) and Georgia Tech, respectively, in the same CONFERENCE) - they were STILL mostly white.

3.  Laettner looked like a taller and younger Tom Cruise - and played with FAR more arrogance than Cruise did in "Top Gun".  Forwards and centers of the same era AS Laettner (no less than Alonzo Mourning - then of Georgetown University comes immediately to mind) were MOSTLY arrogant; and played that way to mostly avoid getting walked over.  (Mourning had HIS detractors for the same reason - and especially because he went to Jesuit Georgetown - "arrogant Jesuit" didn't exactly fit, though it DID fit the mold of John Thompson (his coach AT Georgetown, and half of the original Bruise Brothers, along with Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics) and Patrick Ewing - who Mourning succeeded at center).

4.  Duke was NOT UNC.  You weren't really "allowed" to "hate" UNC, because Dean Smith was blind.  Worse, public universities were "trendy".  Duke?  Private university, pilfered "Carolina colors", and Coach K wasn't disabled.  Therefore, you had PLENTY of excuse to hate Duke - and especially if you were a fan of any OTHER university along Tobacco Road.

5.  Lack of due-diligence.  Look at Laettner's teammates at Duke during his four years - with the sole exception of Grant Hill, all were scholarship students at private or "prep" schools.  (Laettner himself was an old-fashioned "sweep the gym" scholarship student at Nichols Prep - of Buffalo, NY; as gritty a prep school as existed anywhere.  Result - Laettner worked his butt off - on the court, in the classroom, and in the gym after both - literally.  (That was why Coach K recruited Laettner in the first place - his work ethic.)  Note that Laettner didn't slow up any  - not during his four years at Duke, OR his short-by-comparison NBA career; the only OTHER player of his era that worked as hard as Laettner was Mourning - who was not exactly "loved" during HIS career - pro or collegiate - either, until "Zo" himself would be beset by tragedy.


However, I actually grew to respect Laettner MORE because he didn't slow up - he kept working his butt off.  His NBA career was short - however, it wasn't because of lack of effort.  If anything, Laettner was as old-school as it got.  (If anyone of the NBA - or college basketball, for that matter - reminds me of Laettner that played either with or before Laettner, you have - in addition to Mourning - former teammate Tim "Sharpshooter" Legler (now an analyst with ESPN - Legler and Laettner were teammates with the NBA's Washington Bullets/Wizards), former Senator Tom McMillen (D-MD) and - don't laugh - Chris Mullin.)

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