The ESPN anthology series 30 for 30 takes on the life of divisive former Duke and NCAA basketball legend Christian Laettner in I Hate Christian Laettner.
How to Watch ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’ Online
Every film in the complete 30 for 30 library, including I Hate Christian Laettner, can be watched with a subscription to ESPN+.
Once signed up for ESPN+, you can watch I Hate Christian Laettner on your computer via the ESPN website, or you can watch on your phone (iOS or Android), tablet, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox One or other compatible streaming device via the ESPN app.
‘I Hate Christian Laettner’ 30 for 30 Preview
Laettner, who won back-to-back national championships with the Duke Blue Devils in 1991-92, is the subject of this installment of 30 for 30. Directed by Rory Karpf, who also directed The 85 Bears and Nature Boy episodes of the anthology series, and narrated by actor Rob Lowe, I Hate Christian Laettner is a deep dive into the life and times of one of the best — and most divisive — college basketball players to ever play. As Karpf explains early on, Laettner was one of the most clutch players in the history of NCAA basketball. He also remains one of the sport’s most loathed figures.
When Laettner played for Duke from 1988-92, the Blue Devils made four consecutive Final Fours, winning two titles in that span. Laettner’s contributions to the team and the sport of college basketball remain a huge reason for his success as a collegiate athlete. As the title may suggest, I Hate Christian Laettner delves into the vast amount of success and praise heaped on Laettner and Duke men’s basketball at the time, while also examining the endless vitriol he received along with it.
Laettner Was Both Brash and Talented
Those interviewed for the piece include Laettner’s former coach Mike Krzyzewski, Jalen Rose, who played against Laettner as a member of Michigan’s famed Fab 5, Bobby Hurley, who played alongside Laettner at Duke, and The Hangover star Ken Jeong, who graduated from Duke in 1990.
Jeong said he understands why some dislike Duke basketball. “There’s a lot to resent,” Jeong said. “You know, private school with an amazing academic reputation.” He then went on to discuss the school’s rowdy fans, the “Cameron Crazies,” and how their perceived obnoxious antics also reflect on the team and university.
Another primary reason for the dislike towards Laettner stemmed from his clutch play. The film discusses in detail two of the most famous shots in college basketball history: his buzzer-beater in the 1990 regional final against UConn, and what is simply referred to as “The Shot:” his turn-around, game-winning bucket as time expired in the 1992 regional final against the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Aminu Timberlake Incident
The film examines Laettner’s greatness in great detail, as well as the reasons he remains disliked by many opposing fans. Everything from his good looks to his confidence-bordering-on-cockiness made him a target for criticism, as did one infamous play in particular: when Laettner blatantly stepped on Kentucky’s Aminu Timberlake’s chest in the regional final in 1992.
Laettner was given a technical foul — not an ejection — after he clearly stepped on Timberlake in a deliberate manner. In the film, a present-day Laettner jokingly referred the chest stomp as a “love tap,” but acknowledged that it was both childish and foolish, also noting he was in the wrong.
The film examines the many misconceptions about Laettner (the idea he comes from a wealthy home and his rumored homosexuality are two discussed here) while also appreciating his contributions to Duke basketball. He was the National College Player of the Year in 1992, and his four consecutive Final Four appearances coupled with his clutch play has rarely been seen since. Laettner’s upbringing, as the film suggests, helped install the work ethic that led to two National Championships.
Raised in a blue collar family — his father was a printer at the local newspaper, and his mother was a third grade teacher — Laettner’s attending an elite university like Duke left many with the impression he was raised as a rich and privileged young man, when that could not have been further from the truth.
He also attended an elite high school due to his basketball skills, Nichols prep school. His family couldn’t afford to pay the tuition to send him, so he had to join the school’s work program. Laettner was provided with financial aid in exchange for work he did at the school, and the film suggests that many hate(d) Laettner due to a misperceived degree of privilege.
Laettner and Coach K Had a Strong Bond
Some of the film’s most touching moments are when the film examines the relationship between Krzyzewski and Laettner. Describing Laettner as a “big guy” with “guard skills,” Krzyzewski said he knew he wanted to coach Laettner the second he saw him. Archival footage of old speeches Laettner and Krzyzewski made prior to the former leaving the university are particularly laden with emotion.
Some of the more interesting moments come from present day interviews with Laettner’s former teammates Hurley and Grant Hill. It seems Laettner’s brash personality and frequent physical bullying (a term the film and Hill himself use). “We hated him too,” Hill says in the film. “He was just cocky. I mean, he just had an air about him, like: “I’m better than you.”
Also discussed in the film is Laettner’s much-maligned appearance on the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team, his underwhelming NBA career, and his tight-knit friendship with former Blue Devils teammate Brian Davis — along with rumors about Laettner’s sexuality.
The film is comprehensive in its examination of Laettner and his detractors, as well as his role as one of the greatest players on one of the best teams in college basketball history.
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Other Documentaries & Films
Other ESPN documentaries and films that aren’t included in the actual 30-for-30 series are also available on ESPN+, including D. Wade: Life Unexpected, Venus vs, The ’99ers and others.
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