Christian Laettner was never going to top 1992.
He led Duke to its second consecutive national title, was national player of the year and hit perhaps the most famous shot in college basketball history in the East Regional final against Kentucky. Oh yeah. He topped it off by earning a spot on the Dream Team.
There’s nowhere to go but down from there. Still, Laettner produced a serviceable NBA career, playing with six teams over 13 seasons. His numbers (12.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg) don’t blow you away, but his first five seasons were better than most think. He was good for 18 and 7 a night and was your typical NBA player. Among the world’s best basketball players, but not among the best in the NBA.
But it’s his post-career life that makes for the interesting story.
As the AP recounts here, Laettner and former Duke teammate Brian Davis have amassed roughly $26 million in debts while trying to redevelop various warehouses into condos and real estate spaces in the Durham, N.C., area. From the story:
Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, who grew up with Davis in the Washington, D.C., area, obtained a $3.8 million judgment against Laettner and Davis in 2010 after the pair failed to repay a $3 million loan for real estate ventures in 2007. Merriman’s attorney, David Deitch, said Laettner and Davis still owe that money plus more than $300,000 in attorney’s fees.
Scottie Pippen, who played with Laettner on the “Dream Team” at the Olympics in 1992, won a $2.55 million judgment against the pair in 2010 after they failed to pay back money the ex-Bulls star contributed to their attempt to buy the Grizzlies.
In November 2010, Laettner’s attorney even raised the possibility of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
“We’re getting through it and it’s been a huge battle, one of the hardest battles of my life because of … what happened to the economy four years ago,” Laettner said. “That battle is every day of my life.”
It’s not that Laettner tried to cheat people. It’s that he simply got in “over his head.” He’s sold off buildings to pay off debts and is also trying his hand at coaching. He leads the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
It’s quite the ride for someone who 20 years ago this tournament made the most shining moment of them all. We’ll see if he has any magic left.
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