Laettner's shot nearing 20 years old
ATLANTA — Twenty years later, The Shot has followed Christian Laettner to Fort Wayne, Ind., and the NBA D-League.
That’s just fine with Laettner, who says he still enjoys his role in one of the most celebrated plays in college basketball history.
Laettner’s buzzer-beating turnaround jumper lifted Duke to a thrilling 104-103 win over Kentucky in the East Regional final on March 28, 1992. It was the signature play in Duke’s two straight national titles documented in the movie “Duke 91 & 92, Back to Back,” which debuts Sunday night on truTV.
The 42-year-old Laettner said he gained new insights on the play and the game by working on the film.
“Definitely from the perspective of learning the Kentucky side and perspective of it and learning some of the stories from teammates I had and the thoughts in their mind when the play was getting drawn up,” he said. “It was very interesting to me in that regard.
“That’s why I absolutely loved making the movie.”
Grant Hill threw the full-court pass to Laettner, who took one dribble to his right with his back to the basket and then turned to his left for the game-winning jumper as time expired.
Laettner and Hill are executive producers on the movie.
“That shot, that game, that season, that time in college was a fun time,” said Hill, who at 39 is in his 17th NBA season. “I think the film that we worked on certainly captures that.”
Laettner is about seven weeks into his new job as an assistant coach with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He laughed Friday when he said his players have mentioned The Shot “under their breath real quick” when practicing free throws.
He said he has never grown weary of questions and comments about The Shot.
“It has a life of its own and it seems like it keeps getting more special even as the years go by,” said Laettner, who played 13 years in the NBA. “I think in another 20 years if people still love it and there’s no other shot or game that is better than my shot and the entire Kentucky game, it will continue to stand out.”
It’s difficult to be a part of Duke basketball without having a vivid memory of The Shot. ESPN broadcaster Mike Gminski, in Atlanta for the ACC tournament, played for the Blue Devils from 1976-80.
In 1992, Gminski was a backup for the Charlotte Hornets, and he said from his seat on the end of the bench he was able to follow the Duke-Kentucky game by leaning over and watching the broadcast from a fan’s pocket TV.
Then, Gminski entered the game against the Washington Bullets. He said he soon realized he wasn’t the only fan at the Capital Centre following the Duke game.
“We’re getting blown out and I get put into the game,” Gminski said. “There’s a big scream up in the arena where they’re keeping a running score and then the final score went up and the crowd went crazy. We were in transition and I just threw my hands up in the air and celebrated on the court.”
Laettner said it doesn’t seem like so much time has passed since he made The Shot.
“It hasn’t been 20 years as far as the consciousness of the sports fans because it’s shown on TV all the time,” he said, “so in that sense it doesn’t feel like 20 years.”