ESPN had a great 30 for 30 documentary last night about Christian Laettner, the former Duke basketball star.
The title of the documentary was “I Hate Christian Laettner”, and focused on some of the reasons why Laettner was so despised while he was at Duke, and is still hated by many fans over 20 years later.
There have been several good online reviews of the show, here are a few:
I’ve always admired Laettner, and part of it is my admiration for those who excel at what they do. I wrote about this earlier.
Laettner was highly competitive and wanted to be the best, and pushed his teammates to want the same. He also never shied away from the big moments, as evidenced by his infamous shot in the closing seconds against Kentucky, in what many consider to be the greatest college basketball game ever.
I think part of the reason for the negative attitude toward Laettner is jealousy. But it’s not necessarily jealousy over his basketball skills or his fame or his success, but just the fact that Laettner was willing to put himself on the line. He was willing to take the chance that he might fail, willing to show that he cared.
Many people are so worried about failure that they avoid putting themselves in situations where such an outcome is possible. But the result is that such an individual will never experience true success either. And when they see someone who is not controlled by such fear, it strikes deep. They lash out, hoping that such a person will fail, thus proving their point.
And so Laettner was just such a person; he wasn’t controlled by fear. Now I’ll admit that he wasn’t perfect. When he purposely stepped on the chest of an opponent in the previously mentioned Kentucky game, it was one of worst things I’ve seen one player do to another.
But despite his flaws, he was willing to keep moving forward, He was able to ignore the constant criticism, even hate, that he received everywhere he went. In fact, he seemed to thrive in such environments.
Many of us may think that we could never survive under such scrutiny, but in reality, very few of us would ever experience such animosity.
Laettner had some very real reasons if he wanted to shy away from limelight, but he chose not to. Most of us don’t have any legitimate reasons for avoiding the possibility of success.
Seth Godin talks about this in his book The Icarus Deception. While too much hubris may not be good, timidity is not the solution, and can be just as damaging.
Godin follows this up with his latest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn.
Laettner knew what to do when it was his turn, when the game was on the line. Do you?
And I think the following exchange of tweets that took place during the airing of I Hate Christian Laettner captures quite well what Laettner was all about; he simply loved what he did.