Congratulations to Christian Laettner, who was inducted into theÂ the College Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday night.Â Not many deserve it more.
Everyone remembers The Shot of course, which was beyond incredible.Â We have a different memory, though, which in some ways is even more intense.
Duke was playing a mediocre team during the Christmas break and our tickets were in the bleachers and we were quite close to the court, just opposite the Duke bench.
It was a blast.Â The most extraordinary moment though came when a kid from the other team dove on a loose ball.Â Duke was up by something like 30 or 40.Â Laettner came running over to the kid -- about five feet away from where we sat -- and spread his arms as wide as he could...and just screamed at the kid.Â It was pretty primal, and he was close enough to sort of loom over you, and suddenly the distance TV imposes vanished and here is this guy who seemed extraordinarily hostile, yet under control.Â It was instantly clear that this was not someone to toy with because he'd cut your heart out and laugh at you while he did it.
It was a bit unsettling honestly, but later in the game, after watching him closely, we came to appreciate the importance of what we had seen. It might have been the greatest insight not just into Laettner but the Duke program in general: up by 30 or 40 and you go after someone you've already crushed like that?
There was no mercy there and none was expected in return.Â When you played Laettner, you learned quickly that you better bring it, because he sure as hell would.Â The guy was unbelievably great.
Also inducted: the ACC's greatest talent ever, David Thompson.Â And speaking of Thompson, this guy, a Raleigh native, really captures the impact David Thompson had on kids around here. What a nice article.
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