Planning to Leave a Financial Legacy for Your Family
Peach Basket Parables: Duke, Christian Laetnner,
And The Shot
As much success as the Kentucky Wildcats have had over the years, they would tell you there’s one crushing defeat—now more than twenty years old—that still haunts them like an irksome ghost in the attic.
For Wildcats fans, it is a dark, deplorable moment they wish could be purged from the record books, yet they are forced to relive it year after year on various NCAA Tournament highlight shows. For basketball purists not in love with Big Blue, the moment in question is perhaps the most memorable two seconds college basketball has ever experienced.
To either group, it is known simply as The Shot.
If you’ve watched much NCAA basketball, you’ve undoubtedly seen replays or at least heard about The Shot. It is included on any credible list of great moments in college basketball. The footage has been repackaged and replayed in commercials for everything from insurance to overnight shipping, and of course, it’s part of every March Madness promotional montage.
The Shot has been covered, analyzed, and revisited by the sports media for two decades, some would say ad nauseam. So why write about it again? Because omitting it would be basketball blasphemy. Besides, as far as we know, it’s never been written about in a book about financial planning. So here we go.
A Masterpiece in Blue and White
It was March 28, 1992. Kentucky Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils. It was not a championship game, not even Final Four. It was the East Regional Final (the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament) played in Philadelphia. Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, USA Today, and many other media have called it the greatest college basketball game ever.
From the beginning, the stage was set for an epic thriller. It was a blockbuster matchup of two national powerhouse teams featuring star-studded rosters (Duke’s Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, and Grant Hill; Kentucky’s Jamal Mashburn) and two of the game’s most prominent coaches (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s Rick Pitino). Duke, the number one seed, was the defending NCAA champion—it had beaten Kansas in 1991. Kentucky, ranked number two, was seeking a return to power after a ban from postseason play the previous two years.
Kentucky jumped out to an early lead, but Duke fought back to take a 5-point lead into halftime. The Blue Devils appeared in total control when they led by 12 points midway through the second half. That is when the Wildcats clawed their way back with a furious run. Both teams performed exceptionally well in a see-saw battle for the ages, making big shot after big shot. With the game tied 93– 93 in the final seconds of regulation, Hurley narrowly missed a buzzer-beater to win, and they were headed into overtime.
The tension only heightened in the extra period, but neither team cracked. Despite the smothering defense by both sides, the incredible plays kept coming, back and forth, to the very end. There were five lead changes in the final thirty seconds, keeping fans across the nation riveted.
- Thirty seconds left: Laettner, draped in defenders, contorts his body and makes an amazing jump shot off the glass. Duke up by two.
- Twenty seconds left: Jamal Mashburn is fouled on a drive and completes a three-point play. Kentucky up by one.
- Fourteen seconds left: Mashburn fouls out when he hacks Laettner on the shot. Laettner sinks both free throws. Duke up by one.
- Three seconds left: Kentucky’s Sean Woods lofts a running floater in the lane that ricochets in. Kentucky up by one.
Wildcats fans erupted. On any normal night, Woods’s amazing shot would have sealed the game. By the time Duke was able to call timeout, the game clock had wound down to 2.1 seconds. The Blue Devils would have to in-bound the ball on the baseline and move it all the way up the floor for a desperation heave. In other words, no chance, right? Not in two seconds plus a tick.
Inconceivable, Not Impossible
“We are going to win.” That is what Krzyzewski said to his Blue Devils as they gathered for their final timeout. Then he drew up a play that the players recognized. They had rehearsed it in practice, and they had even tried it in a game once (though it had not worked). Instead of telling them what they were going to do, he asked his players for their consensus. In doing so, he planted the confidence in their minds.
He asked Grant Hill: “Can you make a seventy-five-foot pass to the free-throw line?”
“Yes,” Hill answered.
Krzyzewski then asked Christian Laettner: “Can you catch it and get off a good shot?”
When Hill took his position on the baseline, he was surprised to find that Kentucky had not put a defender on him. He could attempt the Hail Mary pass uncontested. The Wildcats opted instead to double-team Laettner, who had not missed any of his nine shots so far.
It would not have the same ring to it, but the famous play might as well be called The Pass because Hill’s was perfect. He threw it like a football, and it floated the length of the court while time stood still (the clock would not start until the inbounded ball touched a player). As millions of viewers held their breaths, Laettner fought his way to the free-throw line. Wildcat defenders lunged to intercept the pass, but the six-foot-eleven Laettner rose above them to make a clean catch. The clock started, and thus began the longest 2.1 seconds imaginable.
With his back to the basket, Laettner took a single dribble to his right, pivoted back to his left, and with 0.3 seconds to go, launched a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arm of a scrambling defender.
Swish. Duke wins, 104 – 103.
Jaws dropped. Fans went wild. Some players embraced. Others collapsed. Tears flowed.
For Laettner, it was the perfect ending to a perfect night. He was 10-of-10 from the field and hit 10-of-10 free throws for 31 points. He was a memorable player already, but on that night, his name was permanently etched in the annals of basketball greatness. Duke went on to win its second straight national championship, the first team to repeat since UCLA in 1973. It would be Krzyzewski’s second title of four through 2013. He was en route to becoming the winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history.
Duke is not the only team to boast a long tradition of elite teams, a who’s who of player alumni, a famous coach, and a legion of diehard fans. Most of the schools mentioned in this book also qualify. But Duke always will have something the others wish they had. It will always have The Shot.
- There is another, less glorious side to the story of Laettner’s perfect game. Kentucky fans protested that Laettner should have been ejected in the second half when, in a moment of adrenaline-fueled combativeness, he intentionally stepped on the chest of Kentucky’s downed Aminu Timberlake. Laettner received a technical foul, but had the referees reacted with a harsher punishment, The Shot might never have happened.
- In 2009, seventeen years after The Shot, Laettner appeared in a TV commercial for Vitamin Water in which he is shown reliving his moment of glory every time he throws away some trash. His neighbor witnesses this childish behavior, rolls his eyes, and hollers, “Give it a rest, Laettner!” The neighbor is former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino.
Chapter-Ending Three Pointer
- Review your estate planning documents and update as needed.
- Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.
- Communicate your overall plan to family members to reduce unexpected surprises.
© 2014 Chuck Thoele
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.