By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Christian Laettner admits he still enjoys seeing the highlight of his famous last-second shot against Kentucky played every March.
The iconic moment in 1992 when the Duke senior hit a turnaround jumper at the free-throw line at the buzzer to beat Kentucky in the regional finals is often regarded as the most memorable in NCAA Tournament history.
“I don’t get tired of seeing it,” Laettner said. “And it seems to get a little more special every year that goes by. It’s something I’m very proud of, and I’m tickled pink every time it comes on. It seems like every March, they do a new vote for the most memorable moments and that shot is always in there.”
Laettner was in Joplin on Wednesday as part of the festivities for the ACCA National Championships at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
While the former Duke and NBA star appreciates the continued media coverage of his college career, he said he wishes ESPN and the like would find some time for lower levels of basketball as well.
“I’m impressed with their commitment,” he said of the ACCA players. “They’re still playing their sport. They’re doing it for love. There are no TV stations. I would love to see more media coverage here. The kid who won the dunk contest earlier, there’s no reason his winning dunk can’t be on ESPN for five seconds. They put the NAIA champs on there for 10 seconds in March. They don’t show these guys at all. I’m not saying to show the game in its entirety, but show the last few minutes to show who wins.”
Laettner created the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy three years ago and built a relationship with ACCA vice chairman Dan Hovestol of Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji, Minn. Hovestol asked Laettner to come to the national tournament in Joplin to talk to the players.
Admittedly, Laettner is using the opportunity to try and build his business of camps and clinics across the nation. However, the basketball star said he also is fond of the dedication shown by this level of athletes.
“All these guys have a great story,” Laettner said. “They’re all still playing the game they love. Sure, it’s not at the level, but they’re still doing some good things here. If there’s any way I can help them get them exposure, I’d like to do that. These kids deserve some coverage, too. Hopefully, we can figure out some way where the event can be a little bigger for the kids, just to make it more fun for them.”
Laettner never had a problem getting media coverage. He helped Duke to four consecutive Final Four appearances and led them to consecutive national championships as a junior and senior. After being named national college player of the year, he was selected to the Olympic Dream Team with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in 1992. Laettner was the third overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft and went to play 13 years, earning All-Star recognition in 1997.
“The thing that stands out the most is the Kentucky shot, because it’s shown annually and it’s talked about and voted on,” Laettner said. “But the thing I’m most proud of is the championships. You don’t play sports to hit last-second shots. You play sports to win championships. The thing that makes me feel good at night is my championship as a junior and my championship as a senior.”
Now, Laettner is focusing on his basketball academy and the camps and clinics. Laettner said he talked with Craig Hull of the Joplin Sports Authority about coming back to Joplin to put on a camp.
“I think I’ll be back before next year’s tournament,” he said. “This is my type of area. I don’t like big, huge cities ... So I’m just trying to grow my business and grow my basketball academy. That’s what I’m here doing.”
More information about Laettner’s academy can be found at www.laettnerbball.com.