Twenty-three years ago, b-baller Christian Laettner hit the Shot, a buzzer-beating jumper that gave the Duke Blue Devils a 104–103 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in possibly the greatest college basketball game ever.
The win raised Laettner into the stratosphere of fan hatred, as seen in the new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary I Hate Christian Laettner.
Laettner, 45, who now runs the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy and still gets heckled in the grocery store, gives us advice about turning hate into something positive.
1. Remember you’re not alone
It happens to everyone who competes at a high level, whether it’s at Duke or in the NBA: Opposing fans always hate you. Use it as fuel. You’re going to go out there and lift harder, try harder, play harder, and be more intense.
And when you retire, they’ll still hate you because you used to beat them. If you sit around worrying about it too much, you’ll lose a lot of sleep.
2. Embrace the hate
[Former University of Kentucky] star Jeff Sheppard put on a Kentucky heroes vs. Kentucky villains game. That was such a neat idea—plus, it was for charity—so I definitely jumped onboard as coach of the villains.
Once you do something like that, you start having fun with it. I got some good laughs. That’s what life’s about.
3. Prepare the troops (and yourself)
My children are in high school. I had to sit them down and talk to them about how to react when someone who’s not a fan says something not nice to them.
It was a learning experience for us and a teaching moment for me. Hopefully my family members will be able to handle it. It takes some maturity on their—and my—part.
4) Stay looking good
I’m about five pounds off my fighting weight since I retired at 35. But even now I work out at least three times a week, doing all the same big football lifts I did when I was in the pros: squats, deadlifts, cleans.
I’m still playing basketball, too, but I have to take my Advil, my Aleve, and my Tylenol first.