If you’ve watched the ESPN 30-for-30 movie, “I Hate Christian Laettner,” you understand that the former Duke University star actually thrived on the fact that seemingly almost everybody not affiliated with the Blue Devils program despised him.
Laettner said about his well-earned reputation as a bully, rules-pusher and punk, and the opposing fans who cursed him because of it, “Okay, if you’re gonna be like that, eff you. I’m gonna go harder than that. It’s hard to have that character to do the right thing all the time.”
Current Duke University “bad boy” Grayson Allen is no Christian Laettner.
He fills most of the check lists – white, talented player, winner, controversial – but he doesn’t have the Laettner mentality that embraced the negativity, channeled it and converted it into even more brilliance on the court.
Laettner’s greatest strength was he literally did not care what you thought of him.
Allen seems to care, and that’s why his dabbling in becoming the latest Laettner is biting him in the rear end.
Tuesday night, during the Blue Devils 88-72 loss at Florida State, Allen crashed into Seminoles assistant coach Dennis Gates as he jumped out of bounds to save a loose ball.
Gates was seated and Allen did extend both of his arms into him as he fell into the courtside seats.
Technically, Allen did push Gates, but did it deserve the “Duke’s Grayson Allen shoves FSU assistant coach while chasing loose ball” headline on ESPN.com?
No, it didn’t.
It didn’t look like more than a player trying to brace against the impact of an imminent fall. It was the kind of contact that could happen in a dozen games on any night without notice.
ESPN slowed the video down and then spotlighted Allen’s contact with Gates.
No one mentioned it in the postgame interviews.
Still, this is what Allen, a junior guard who was a consensus preseason All-America, has brought on himself.
After you’ve been suspended and stripped of your captaincy for intentionally tripping an opponent for the third time in 10 months, every move Allen makes gets increased scrutiny.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t do Allen any favors by ending his “indefinite” suspension for tripping Elon College player Steven Santa Ana in December after one game.
It just brought out more of the “haters,” saying Coach K was too lenient.
Of bigger concern is the microscopic vision now on Allen. He might be the first Duke player to no longer get the benefit of the doubt.
In Allen’s second game back he had what looked like routine tangle-up contact with Boston College player Connor Tava but some screamed tripping so the Atlantic Coast Conference felt inclined to issue a statement saying in part that, “There is nothing conclusive that can be determined.”
Allen is now considered a serial tripper. Amateur psychologists have already declared the kid has a glitch in his makeup that prevents him from stopping himself.
That sound’s funny, but Allen is now in real danger that the next controversial incident could lead to the ACC dropping punishment on him instead of Duke.
That would definitely be more than one game.
Allen, who is considered a possible first-round pick in 2017, should also be concerned how the negative perceptions of him could affect his draft position.
Laettner was so good that character flaws did not stop the Minnesota Timberwolves from drafting him No. 3 overall in 1992.
Allen isn’t so talented that any strikes against him won’t give teams reasons to look at someone else. He could slip spots which could cost him millions of dollars.
Again, Allen has brought this upon himself.
Still, shouldn’t there be some leeway given?
As a graduate of the University of Maryland, I hate Duke basketball as much as anybody, but is Allen now going to be questioned every time he fights through a pick, touches an opponent or dives for a loose ball into a crowd?
Allen seems aware of what has happened to him and remorseful for his contributions to it.
Grayson Allen may now have the label, but he’s no Christian Laettner.
Laettner would never have held a press conference during which he cried while apologizing and expressing regret for tripping Santa Ana.
Laettner would have looked the questioning media in the eye, smiled and said, “Eff You!”