Archive for the ‘opinion’ Tag

Christian “Late”-ner on a Loan…(See what I did there?)   2 comments


In 1992, Christian Laettner hit arguably the most famous shot in the history of the NCAA Tournament to win arguably the greatest game in the history of NCAA basketball.  He went on to represent his country, albeit from the bench, and walked away with a gold medal as a member of the 1992 Dream Team (THE greatest team ever assembled in any sport…ever…don’t question me on this in a bar argument as I will start yelling…the only argument is if Isiah Thomas should have been on the team).  He was drafted into the NBA in 1992 and after bouncing around to and from seven different teams during a relatively disappointing career, he cashed out of the NBA and retired.  According to a three sentence blurb in the Chicago Sun-Times last week, Laettner has now found himself in debt and has lost a $3.8 lawsuit to Shawne Merriman over defaulting on a business loan between the two (what a Maryland Terp and a Duke Blue Devil were doing in business together I will never know…).

To be clear, I have never been a Christian Laettner fan as I was drawn to the “Fab 5” with their baggy shorts, highlight-reel style of play, and swingman with whom I shared a last name.  Although he has never been one to me personally, Christian Laettner was and is a hero to many.  To those who played the race card in the early 90’s, his Duke teams were not players pulled from the inner city who wore shorts down to their ankles.  They were clean cut, smart, “well-spoken” (apparently speaking with non-regional/ethnic diction equals intelligence?), and wore shorts that showed everything Bobby Hurley had to offer.  To basketball purists, they played the game the “right” way, playing an unselfish style with a strong emphasis on defense and fundamentals.  Those Duke teams thrived off of and were fueled by hustle plays while teams like the great UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of 1990-91 and the Fab 5 came off as cocky and brash relying merely on pure athleticism and talent instead of hard work and heart.  The latter group might be onto something as Duke beat both teams during Laettner’s tenure.  Unfortunately for him, Christian Laettner, like so many athletes before and after, became a false representation of those basketball court ideals.

Laettner’s uber-intelligence on a basketball court did not transcend to fiscal knowledge and responsibility.  That undying heart of his could not stop his real estate business from flat-lining.  His four year Duke education, which he had to have received because every big time college athlete attends every single one of his or her classes, did not instill enough knowledge in him to master his eventual business field and maintain profits over loses and debts.

Who wouldn't want this guy developing their community?

Laettner has fallen victim (yes, I realize I am saying people who get paid millions of dollars to play sports are victims) to a fallacy that has plagued professional athletes for decades.  They are told by everyone around them, including fans like you and I, how great they are at their respective sports.  We watch and admire their on the court/field greatness and the fan in us assumes that greatness MUST lend itself to other aspects of life because these people are winners and winners always win.  With their already giant egos being fed more encouragement, the athletes end up believing they can accomplish anything.  I am sure Laettner sat down prior to all of this and had a Keith Hernandez Seinfeld moment, “This real estate thing can’t be that hard, I’m Christian Laettner!  I was a perfect ten of ten in the greatest NCAA basketball game ever played!  Let’s develop some property!”  Why do you think Kobe Bryant went on Tyra and rapped?  Why did Dick Butkus throw his hat into the acting ring and become the high school basketball coach on NBC’s Saturday morning show Hang Time?  Because WE let them think they could do it.  People cheered during Kobe’s terrible rap and even I tuned it to watch Butkus run a co-ed high school team that ran the same play every possession on Saturdays.

As sports fans we have to realize that the ability our favorite athletes show on the field or court does not necessarily translate to our world just like our random abilities do not translate to theirs.  My ability to know more Saved By the Bell trivia than Derrick Rose doesn’t mean that I can be anything like him on a basketball court and his ridiculous first step and quickness doesn’t mean he can sell things like I do (although I would buy just about anything D-Rose tried to sell me).  So tonight, if and when Cam Newton is responsible for 400 all purpose yards and 5 touchdowns, appreciate him for his athletic abilities and performance, but do not ask him to develop any communities in your area.

PS – This video is a wonderful tribute to Laettner’s shot…enjoy:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPMo14XTTvE