The Re-ignition of Duke Hate

I was looking for something to watch while I was working out and I found an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner.”  Funny, I thought that someone was flashing a giant neon sign, “Watch me!”  I had heard about the documentary in relation to Jalen Rose and I knew from watching the 30 for 30 about the “Fab Five” that Rose couldn’t stand him.  He had no problem expressing his hatred for Laettner, bravo to Rose!

The documentary takes a look at five of the MANY (as far as I’m concerned) reasons why someone could hate Laettner and those are: Privilege, White, Bully, Greatness and Looks.  It goes back and takes a look at some of the bigger moments in his college career and how much of a big “villain” as Bobby Hurley called him he could be.

We need someone to hate?  At least that is something that we are told.  The documentary also suggested we hated the caricature, the person we thought he was and not really who he is.

In many of the interviews the only people associated with Duke basketball that stand up for his many types of behavior are Brian Davis and occasionally in a very politically correct way Grant Hill.

He makes no excuses for who he is and says he only wants the respect and admiration of “my siblings, my parents, my coaches.”  Well bravo son because you get nothing else from me.

He embodies a program.  He does have to be one of the best college basketball players ever.

It’s amazing looking back on it now, I remember how much of a basketball fan that I was then.  The funny thing is though, no one will ever be like him.  No one who is ever good stays I school for four years now.

You can look at it from two different sides.  I’m big on trying to see two different sides of the story, and trust me I saw something way different after watching this than anything I ever saw before.  I never knew Laettner was such an ass to Bobby Hurley before.  Considering Hurley grew up in Jersey, I would have thought he would have given it back to Laettner, but he didn’t seem to.  Laettner seemed to think in his conversation all these years later that he was doing what was best for the team and that if he didn’t push Hurley they wouldn’t have gone far.  He wanted to win so he had to push his buttons.

We are shown that Laettner had his buttons pushed by his brother, who beat him around in sports and made him such a megalomaniac on the court.  Yes I know he was great but before he was great he was just another in a line of Duke players that people hated.  After the many instances on the court from stomping to elbow throwing to “look at me in front of the camera” Laettner made himself the target of whatever negative attention he could find.  That’s not to say all of it was good.  Fans aren’t always good about their hate.  However, what I can say is that Laettner may be the last true college basketball player who spends four years at a program and truly becomes a symbol of that program and is hated for it.  If nothing else Coach K and Laettner made each other, and that deserves nothing less than bitterness in its own way.

I certainly think he’s a good basketball player, in fact I think he was great basketball player I will certainly give you that.  I’m not sure how many hearts he broke with last minute shots and he wasn’t afraid to be a huge douche by talking smack on the court.  At a time when the Fab Five was taking heat for wearing baggy jerseys and shorts, no one was saying anything to him about how he played the game.  He still seems to have disrespect for Jalen Rose and the rest of the Fab Five which is great as far as I’m concerned.  You’ve gotten all the applause from me you’ll get.

It’s possible that the documentary stopped short of one big thing.  Had he been ejected for stomping on Aminu Timberlake ‘s chest in the 1992 NCAA Tournament game (I still remember that shot at the buzzer like it was yesterday), would Duke and Coach K go on to be who they are today?  If it wasn’t Rick Pitino on the other sideline would they have tossed Laettner (we all know the NCAA isn’t always kind to the trendsetters in basketball).  Jalen Rose said if it was one of the Fab Five who did the stepping they would still be on probation in 2015 and while maybe not this long I still think he has a point.  College basketball seemed to miss all of Laettner’s antics because he could hit shots, because of his supporting cast, because of his coach, because of his school and because of that perception of him.  That All-American, it must have been a mistake,  nope he won’t get tossed.

Sorry I know they tried to sell me on Duke hate but it turned into Duke Love.  No thanks, I’ll pass but Laettner surely won’t, more self promotion!