Christian Laettner and the Profitability of Big Blue Hate

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

Since 1992, former Duke forward Christian Laettner has been remembered in the dark recesses of every Kentucky fans’ heart. Beating The Unforgettables — the senior class of Wildcats who overachieved through Kentucky’s probation in the early 1990s — on a last-second shot created an entire generation of fans who harbor special hatred for Laettner and his stomp of Wildcat Aminu Timberlake’s chest.  After a decent pro career and some financial difficulties, Laettner re-engaged with Big Blue Nation Monday night. Laettner wanted to be hated; more specifically, Laettner wanted to get paid for being hated.

The Big Blue Hate Trade isn’t quite as profitable as former Wildcat basketball player Jeff Sheppard and his production team hoped. This Villains exhibition game was the ninth and final game of the Big Blue All-Star Tour that stretched throughout the state of Kentucky in the last couple of weeks. Laettner’s fame as Wildcat Enemy #1 was supposed to be the big pull to draw repeat attendees. Instead the announcement of Laettner’s involvement sparked some heated debate within Big Blue Nation as some fans did not want him a part of the festivities. Even after nearly 20 years since Laettner’s shot and Kentucky winning two National Championships of their own, it is still too soon for some Kentucky fans to let bygones be bygones.

By whichever reason, ticket sales estimates at game time were below 10,000 seats (less than half the capacity of Rupp Arena). The crowd that did gather was ready for battle. “I Still Hate Laettner” t-shirts were prominent and the former Duke player was met with boos every time he was mentioned during time out presentations. To his credit, Laettner gave the crowd what they were looking for: Late in the 4th quarter, he ended up cleaning the hallowed hardwood of Rupp Arena with a towel in mock humiliation. When most of the crowd didn’t appreciate the gesture with a chorus of boos, an arranged dramatic exit occurred with two technical fouls. Before leaving the floor, he moved to the free throw line and indicated he wanted to recreate his infamous shot; instead he was playfully tackled by Big Blue All-Star coach Rex Chapman.

If Christian Laettner didn't make his shot in 1992, would Sean Woods would be wiping sweat off of the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium?

Laettner’s team of Villains would have the last laugh, winning the game in overtime, 152-149. Former Florida Gator Corey Brewer led the Villains with 32 points and gave a victorious Gator Chomp arm gesture at the end of the game. Former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough drew the second-most amount of boos and hisses from the crowd. Apparently the wounds of Hansbrough’s last Rupp Arena performance are still tender. Former Louisville Cardinal Terrence Williams received the biggest laugh of the evening when he botched a flat-footed windmill slam.

Before the end of the game, Sheppard announced to the crowd during a timeout that they could “come by and share something with [Laettner]” after the game; a line at least 200 people long formed. Statements about “ruined childhoods” were probably made in varying states of jest while Wildcat Enemy #1 signed purchased posters and other memorabilia.  Laettner will probably not have another opportunity to cash in on Kentucky Hate. Hopefully his playful demeanor through the boos of thousands will net him a little more respect from the deep, dark pits of Kentucky Hate. It definitely netted him some cash, although from the empty seats around the arena, perhaps not as much as he might have hoped.

Gerald Smith (39 Posts)

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