Christian Laettner is one of the most iconic and, simultaneously, one of the most hated players in college basketball history during his days with the Duke Blue Devils. He had a solid NBA career as well, but he will mostly be remembered for his illustrious college career at Duke and was the only college player on the original Dream Team in 1992 that participated in the Barcelona Olympics.
The most hated college player
If you were growing up in the 90s and watching college basketball, Laettner was definitely a player you will remember. Outside of Duke, there weren't many fans that liked him, and he was definitely a target more than any other college player. ESPN even created a 30 for 30 documentary, "I hate Christian Laettner, " which focused on the main reasons why he was such a hated athlete during those years. The main traits they were researching about his personality were: race, privilege, bullying, greatness, and physical appearance.
However, in his new autobiography "Game", Grant Hill shares an interesting perspective about Laettner and what he really was like behind closed doors. Hill details that Laettner had one of the biggest personalities and was a talented individual who was excellent in almost anything he did. Laettner even took the time to teach Hill how to play different songs on a piano.
"We all know a Laettner. First of all, he was cool, full of personality and a magnet for attention. He was annoyingly good at seemingly everything. Ping-Pong? He demolished all takers. Piano? He taught me how to play Force MDs' "Tender Love" on the keyboard. He also knew that he was good at everything and told everyone about it.
He was deep into hip-hop
People often judge someone even though they don't know much about them or who they really are, and that was the case with Laettner. Hill says Laettner loved hip hop and clicked really well with the African-American community on campus so much that Hill thought he grew up in a black neighborhood instead of a small place called Angola, New York.
"He was the team's big brother. Socially, he showed ease with the brothers, enough so that I could've sworn he grew up in a Black neighborhood instead of just outside Buffalo. Laettner loved hip-hop. I mean, he was deep into hip-hop. Anyone could recite a couple Digital Underground lines from that era. He knew Chubb Rock's lyrics. He recited the Jungle Brothers. It didn't appear he devoted as much time or energy toward our white teammates. He was in his element, though, when we hung out at North Carolina Central University, the state's historically Black college down the road, or on campus at the Black bench."
Naturally, most people never knew this side of the story, in this case, the type of personality Laettner had, especially among his teammates, which is why they respected him so much. All of that is no coincidence, and that is why he later had a solid 13-year-long NBA career that wasn't as spectacular as his college one was, but nevertheless, not too many people can say they played that long in such a competitive environment.
At Duke, Laettner was the focal point and the face of their team despite having tremendous teammates like Grant Hill and, during those years, accumulated all the possible individual achievements. Duke retired his number, and Laettner was later enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. It's often said that people hate the best players the most, which was the case with Christian Laettner during his spectacular college run.