A little-known fact about the most hated Blue Devil of them all: He came closer than you might think to wearing Tar Heel blue.
New York native Christian Laettner fell in love with Duke in high school when Johnny Dawkins led the Blue Devils to the Final Four in 1986, but his mother always had a soft spot for Dean Smith and the North Carolina Tar Heels. As a result, Bonnie Laettner didn't take it well when her son broke the news to her that he'd made his college choice.
"When I told my mother I was going to Duke and not Carolina, she just cried and that made my decision process a little harder," the 40-year-old Laettner told DevilsIllustrated.com on Wednesday.
"I just felt Duke was a little bit more of an up-and-coming program. I wanted to be a part of that, whereas Carolina had already won a championship and they were very well established. I wanted to be a part of the Duke program because they weren't quite there yet, they were getting there, they were getting to the super upper level program and I wanted to be a part of that momentum."
It's pretty hilarious to think of Laettner's mom crying at the thought of her son not going to North Carolina especially considering the career the former All-American forward had at Duke. Laettner led the Blue Devils to four consecutive Final Fours and won back-to-back national titles, sinking perhaps the most famous shot in college basketball history in the process.
So does Mama Laettner still wish Christian had become a Tar Heel?
"She's happy about the decision now, but she really liked Dean Smith," Laettner said. "One of his strengths was that he was really good at connecting with the parents and letting them know that he'd take really good care of their son. He was really good at it. She liked him a lot, but in the end, she ended up not regretting my decision at all."