Athletes Then & Now: Christian Laettner

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As Duke battles its way into this year's Final Four, SI looks back at one of the all-time top Blue Devils -- Christian Laettner:

They call it "The Shot," 2.1 seconds of basketball poetry. March Madness held the Philadelphia Spectrum in its thrall. Duke and Kentucky were battling in the NCAA East Regional final for a hopeful ride to the Final Four, and with a 103-102 overtime lead, it looked like Kentucky might pull it off. Then Duke's Grant Hill fired a long last-second in-bound pass to teammate Christian Laettner, whose aim that night had been immaculate and true -- and proved just as perfect under pressure. In a series of moves Kentucky fans still see in nightmares, Laettner dribbled once, then turned, then released. The ball fell sweetly as the Spectrum buzzer sounded: 104-103. Laettner wrapped the night with exemplary stats: 10-for-10 from both the floor and the free-throw line. Duke went on to claim its second consecutive NCAA title with a 71-51 victory over Michigan. That summer Laettner joined the gold-medal "Dream Team," its sole amateur, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He was then drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberowlves in the NBA Draft.

Sadly, Laettner couldn't replicate his college success in the big time, although he did make the All-Rookie First Team (1992-93) and the All-Star reserves (1996-97), and appeared in 45 playoff games overall. He suited up for six squads over 13 years, ending his professional career in 2005 with the Miami Heat. Off the pine he's exhibited an altruistic and entrepreneurial bent as a partner in Blue Devil Ventures, a community development firm he operates with old Duke teammate Brian Davis. In 2001 he donated $1 million to his high school, the private Nichols School in Buffalo, New York, then handed $2 million to Duke's basketball program in 2005. He's also co-owned a Triple-A baseball team as well as the D.C. United soccer franchise, taking a buyout on the latter last October.

But he'll never escape "The Shot," and he seems fine with that. In 2009, he starred in a popular Vitaminwater spot with ex-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, torturing his old nemesis with domestic re-creations of the buzzer-beater (the branch-to-wheelbarrow shot is especially impressive). This year he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, just in time for March Madness and renewed interest in his legendary feat. "People always approach me and ask about that game, every day of the year, especially when it comes tournament time," the 6-foot-11 Laettner told the Associated Press. "It's crazy, but I don't mind it. It's better than 'How's the weather up there?'"

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