Men's Basketball

Christian Laettner helping out a team of Wildcats. Really.

Christian Laettner tried to re-enact his game-winning shot from the 1992 Duke-Kentucky NCAA Tournament game, but former Kentucky player Rex Chapman tackled him as they goofed around during a charity game in Rupp Arena on Oct. 24, 2011.
Christian Laettner tried to re-enact his game-winning shot from the 1992 Duke-Kentucky NCAA Tournament game, but former Kentucky player Rex Chapman tackled him as they goofed around during a charity game in Rupp Arena on Oct. 24, 2011. File

Christian Laettner, the former Duke All-American every Kentucky fan still loves to hate, will be helping out a high school team this season as part of a new reality show.

Get this: The team’s mascot? The Wildcats.

Laettner will be working with Garinger High, a 3-14 team in Charlotte, N.C., as part of a new reality TV series called “Z Team” that will air on the Olympic Channel, according to a story by Langston Wertz Jr. on CharlotteObserver.com. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2006.

“So the kids were looking at the size of him (Laettner is 6-foot-11),” Garinger Athletics Director Tony Huggins told the Observer, “and I’m sure they’ll go home and Google him, and once they see exactly who he is they’ll be shocked that he played on the Olympic team with (Michael) Jordan. That’s going to be big to them.”

No need for Kentucky fans to Google Laettner, a man who served as the villain in UK’s “Unforgettables” defeat in the 1992 NCAA Tournament’s East Regional finals. His buzzer-beating shot entered college basketball legend and is part of what inspired the “Everyone Hates Christian Laettner” 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN a few years ago.

Laettner has taken his infamy in stride and good-naturedly played the role of chief villain in a charity basketball game in Rupp Arena organized by former Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard in 2011. Sheppard thought the visit humanized Laettner a bit for some UK fans.

“I think it was neat people got to see that other side of him. He was a lot of fun,” Sheppard told the Herald-Leader’s Mark Story. “But deep down, we don’t want him to be a nice guy. Deep down, we want to continue to hate Laettner as part of being a Kentucky basketball fan.”

Laettner signed “wanted posters” and “I still hate Laettner” T-shirts at the 2011 event. He said then he understood how UK fans feel.

“They should be mad at me for what I did to their team,” he said. “... The average everyday person loved that (UK) team.”

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