Classic card of the week

Christian Laettner, 1993 Classic Games, Inc.

Here is another installment of Classic Games, Inc’s immensely popular and relevant “Four-Sport Collection.” Featured here is famous four-sport athlete Christian Laettner, who besides excelling at basketball, was also an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, a jockey (who once, it should be mentioned, almost rode Butter Purplefingers -- a thoroughbred owned by trainer D. Wayne Lucas -- to glory at the Belmont Stakes), and a competitive dancer who was featured in the independent film, “You Got Served.”

Today however, we focus on basketball. Laettner, seen here dribbling intensely with slicked-back hair, was dubbed “The Professor” while at Duke, for his entertaining brand of streetball and also because, when he received enough college credits, he actually taught an introductory course on French Literature. But let us see what else this card has to say:

Christian Laettner helped Minnesota tremendously during the 1992-93 season

The 1991-92 Minnesota Timberwolves finished 15-67. The 1992-93 Minnesota Timberwolves finished 19-63. So, in this particular case, “tremendously” = four wins, assuming that no carryover players improved, and no new players sans Laettner contributed anything positive. I think this is a fair assumption. I am good at assumptions.

Laettner quieted all critics who doubted he could perform at the power forward position in pro basketball.

Indeed, Laettner’s 18-plus points per game and spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Team were impressive, especially for a honky. And therein lie, I believe, the foundation of the skepticism with regards to Laettner’s NBA potential: Could this Caucasian from Duke, where he had succeeded immensely at playing basketball, play basketball? Many thought he should focus on football, where there was less of a chance of him getting pushed around by bigger, more culturally diverse men. Even his own family was skeptical of his choices. On NBA Draft day in ‘92, in an emotionally charged interview with Ahmad Rashad, who had posed the simple non-question, “You must feel great,” Laettner’s mother said, while wiping away tears, “We raised him to dance and/or ride horses. But Christian’s going to do what he wants to do, and I have to support that.”

Under the leadership of Timberwolves coach Sidney Lowe, Laettner and his teammates could combine to make a serious run in the Western Conference.

That depends what you mean by “run.” If you mean, literally, that they could, if everything broke just right, run up and down the basketball court with serious faces on -- which is something Laettner himself excelled at, obviously -- then yes, this would be a feasible statement. I mean sure, their 19-63 record was a clear indication that the Timberwolves were poised for great things, and they did improve on that, albeit not tremendously, by going 20-62 the following season.

But then Lowe, unable to harness the raw potential of Laettner, and other greats like Thurl Bailey, and “Funk in the Trunk” creator J.R./Isaiah Rider, was, out of nowhere, fired, thus bringing to an end the great, serious, Western Conference run of the 1992-94 Minnesota Timberwolves.

Christian Laettner would eventually retire from all sports, even ones that he never played. He would, however, go on to improve his street cred by -- with the help of other Duke alum -- financing the development of an upscale community in North Carolina’s Brightleaf District. The original name of the development, inspired by former teammate J.R./Isaiah Rider’s brief musical career, was called, “Funk in the Trunk Meadows.” But they eventually, to the chagrin of me only, settled on “West Village.”

Did you know?
When Laettner was named to the 1992 USA Dream Team instead of favorite Shaquille O'Neal, it became the most important thing that never mattered in the first place, ever.


Joe S. said…
A childhood friend and I played a TON of one-on-one basketball as kids. We'd always argue over who we got to "be". The loser of whatever game we played to see who got to pick first (usually horse, or a 'hit or miss' type shot) had to be Shaq, because why would we want to be the guy NOT on the Dream Team?
mkenny59 said…
Ha! So true. And Joe, I bet, like me, you had the dream team poster, too. Leattner was noticeably absent from that one. Weird.