Christian Laettner’s been in the news a lot lately. The former Duke great had an ESPN 30 For 30 made about him, the tantalizingly-titled “I Hate Christian Laettner,” he’s popping up in AT&T commercials throughout the tournament, and he’s currently doing some work to promote Buffalo Wild Wings and the restaurant’s tournament tracker.
Love him or hate him, Laettner is one of the best college players of all time. His shot against Kentucky will be played every March for all eternity (or as long as the NCAA exists), he owns a bunch of NCAA Tournament records, was part of four straight Final Four teams and won two national titles.
Even as the time goes by, Laettner’s college legacy hasn’t faded one bit.
UPROXX Sports had the chance to talk with Laettner on Thursday about his 30 For 30, playing on the Dream Team, the best advice Coach K ever gave him, and more.
Martin Rickman: The documentary aired on Sunday, and it seemed like everybody was talking about it. I was curious to get your take on how you thought the final product turned out.
Christian Laettner: You’re right, the response has been tremendous. It was very, very positive. I loved the way the finished product turned out. I loved the way they approached me. They approached me back in the spring and said “ESPN wants to make a movie about you.” That was flattering and honoring, so of course I said yeah. Then I really laughed at how they picked the title. They said, ‘We’re going to call it “I Hate Christian Laettner,’ and I laughed about it because I can understand where some of that dislike and that hate comes from. If you weren’t a Duke fan, you got tired of seeing us there every year, four years in a row when i was playing there. That was really funny. The first time I saw the finished product was about a month ago with Rory [Karpf], the filmmaker, and I loved it. I’m loving it more and more every time I see it.
What do you think the most common misconception about you as a person or a player is? Looking back on that, I’m sure there are things that still this day that have been lost about the type of person you are.
I think the biggest misconception is that I came from entitlement, and I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. None of that’s true. I was born very blue collar. All that happened was I went to a really nice college prep high school and a really established college – and everyone thinks people who go to Duke are entitled. Those two things combined, a preppy high school with a high tuition, and Duke University with a high tuition, they just think everyone there is rich. I didn’t come from a rich family, and neither did anyone else on our basketball team, except for Grant Hill.
One of the things at the end of the film they kind of slipped in there at the end, but I thought was one of the more amazing clips was you showing your son the YouTube clip of some of your shots. Are there any other shots or games you made sure you wanted him to see?
He is nine years old, and he of course has seen the Kentucky shot just over the last two or three years because my father or my children showed it to him. But it’s nothing I’ve grabbed him and sat him down to watch. And he definitely had never seen the Connecticut shot I hit my sophomore year. So while Rory was there doing my main interview for the movie, he said, ‘Show your son the Connecticut shot because a lot of people forget about that.’ He was trying to tie it together how people forget about that shot, or the Kentucky shot overshadows the UConn shot, and my son didn’t know about it, so he just wanted to show that.
Another thing Sunday that kind of blew me away was you deciding to apologize to Aminu [Timberlake] on Twitter, and you did it with a Twitter video. I had not seen that before. How did that idea come about, and why did you decide to do that at that specific time?
That idea came about because I thought it would be a good idea, and to link it up with the movie coming out and the movie premiering on Sunday night. I had a few advisors in my life who thought it was a good idea also, so that’s what I did.
With regards to the tournament today, are you still really invested in it, or do you think that it has lost some of its luster over the years?
I’m still really, really invested in it. It hasn’t lost any of its luster over the years. I think it’s just gaining power and strength, and becoming more of a national phenomenon every year because of technology and social media. It’s blowing up bigger and bigger, so it’s really good to see.
Did you have any players growing up that you hated or guys that you couldn’t stand, or even anybody today? Does anybody come close to the response that gets generated when people bring up the name Christian Laettner?
No, I didn’t have anyone that I hated growing up watching them play at that age because I had parents who would tell me, ‘Don’t hate that person. You don’t know that person. You are only viewing them from a distance.’ My mother’s a teacher, and my father’s a coach, so I think they’re very intelligent in terms of teaching me about life, and they’d always say to me don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t believe perception and image all the time. Don’t judge anyone until you hang out with them for a few days or walk in their shoes. That’s what I hope people give me, is I hope they give me the benefit of the doubt like that. Don’t always look to image or perception or what is pumped out there by the media or something like that.
Did you get the chance to talk to Bobby Hurley this week? With Buffalo making the tournament, I know that’s exciting for them, especially up there.
It’s hugely exciting for them, and it’s exciting for me because I’m from Buffalo. I’m so happy for the city that they got something to cheer for. I’m happy that one of my old teammates Bobby is coaching the team, leading them to a higher level than they’d ever achieved before. I couldn’t be happier for the city of Buffalo, for Bobby Hurley or for UB. I talked to him like a week ago, either Thursday or Friday, but not since he won the [MAC] Championship.