A quarter of a century after taking his last amateur dribble, Christian Laettner remains one of the top college basketball players of all time. Four Final Fours, two national championships, numerous records – Laettner did it all at Duke.
Which is part of the reason he was so reviled.
Yes, as seen in the 30 for 30 doc, I Hate Christian Laettner, fans despised the New York native for many reasons, even if some of those reasons were more perception than reality. For example, many fans saw Laettner as the epitome of white-collar entitlement. But that was a mirage. Laettner’s upbringing was as blue-collar as it gets. And he wasn’t soft. He was tough.
Laettner didn’t mind being hated, but he did mind the false narrative.
“I didn’t really worry about the why people didn’t like me part,” he said on The DA Show, “but the misinterpretation and the misinformation that was put out there, it bothers you a little bit, but you realize that it’s part of the game. You realize that you can’t control it all the time. You realize that eventually the truth will come out and it’s not that big of a deal. But it is part of the game and you just got to get used to it. People are going to say things that aren’t true, but like I said, eventually the truth comes out. And even when the truth does come out, people don’t want to hear it and they don’t want to change their perception because I guess perception is everything. It’s just something you got to deal with.”
That’s a mature perspective – and it’s one Laettner didn’t have at 21.
“No, no, no I didn’t have that in college. That comes with old age,” the 48-year-old said. “I didn’t have it in college, and the learning process was over my head right there. That’s when you don’t handle things the right way. You might shut down to the media people that said the wrong things about you – and shutting down to the media is not good.”
Laettner was asked if it’s easier for him to be open with media nowadays.
“I haven’t found it easier, but you do mature a little bit,” he said. “But what happens more than anything is just the natural progression. As years go by, more of the truth comes out, or a movie is made about you and people can see parts of the truth. It’s just been a natural progression like that. You still don’t want to go around saying, ‘Listen to me. Here’s my story. You got it wrong.’ You don’t want to stand on the pulpit and bang on your chest and say, ‘You got it wrong, and this is how it really is.’ It’s not really that important. What’s important is that the people that know you and that love you well, they understand and know where you’re from.”