Apparently Christian Laettner started to trend on Twitter this weekend due to The Last Dance and the talk of the 1992 Dream Team.
A lot of younger fans can’t understand why the Dream Team took Laettner. There were only two reasons: 1) they were required to take one college player and 2) Laettner earned that.
It wasn’t just the back-to-back titles or the two NCAA buzzer beaters. It was four Final Fours and taking everyone’s best shot from Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo to UNLV, the Fab Five and Shaquille O’ Neal.
A lot of people feel that O’ Neal shouldn’t have been passed over for Laettner. However, don’t put Shaq on that list. He was mad about it at the time but later grew to understand why Laettner was taken: “I was pissed off. I was jealous. But then I had to come to the realization that I was a more explosive, more powerful player, but Christian Laettner was a little bit more fundamentally sound than I was. Plus he stayed all four years and graduated. … I just think it helped me grow as a player.”
So did getting smoked by Laettner twice in college. Laettner exposed a rather significant hole in O’ Neal’s game: he couldn’t guard anyone away from the basket. Since the international lane at the time was a trapezoid, O’ Neal’s game was not well suited. Laettner, as you’ll see here, had no trouble playing away from the basket.
Also interesting: a lot of people forgot that after the Dream Team, Laettner and Michael Jordan became teammates again as Washington Wizards. It’s a footnote to the Dream Team but still interesting.