The Duke Blue Devils needed a miracle.
They were down 103-102 to Kentucky with 2.1 seconds left and had the length of the court to go. A trip to the Final Four on the line.
Sophomore Grant Hill lined up for the inbounds pass. He wound up and threw a strike to teammate Christian Laettner at the opposite free-throw line. Laettner dribbled once, spins, rises for the turnaround jumper…
Christian Laettner Hits “The Shot”
Greatest game in NCAA Tournament history. One of the greatest shots in basketball history. Laettner’s buzzer-beater was the cherry on top of peak hoops.
The top-ranked Blue Devils were the defending national champions with losses to only North Carolina and Wake Forest all season. Kentucky was fresh off a two-year postseason ban due to recruiting violations and anchored by four seniors, three of whom were Kentucky natives. They met in the Elite Eight.
Leading up to the shot, Kentucky and Duke went back and forth the entire game. Duke took a five-point lead into halftime, but Kentucky roared back. With 33 seconds left in the second half, Kentucky’s Deron Feldhaus tied the game at 93 on a putback. Duke point guard Bobby Hurley missed the winning shot at the end of regulation.
The lead traded throughout overtime. Laettner gave Duke a 102-101 lead with 7.8 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, Kentucky’s Sean Woods hit a floater to put the Wildcats ahead 103-102.
We all know what happened next.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski showed emotion for maybe the first time ever. Kentucky’s Rick Pitino was devastated. Laettner finished with 31 points and 7 rebounds, shooting a perfect 10-10 from both the field and charity stripe.
CBS’ Verne Lundquist delivered the all-time call.
Duke won the East Regional Final and beat Indiana in the Final Four. They defeated Michigan’s Fab 5 in the championship game to win the national title, becoming the first repeat champions since UCLA in 1972-73.
Sports Illustrated deemed Laettner’s miracle shot the greatest college basketball game of all time in 2004. ESPN ranked it the 17th best sports moment as part of ESPN25—the 25th-anniversary celebration of the network— the same year.
Laettner played for the Dream Team that summer with Michael Jordan, who knows a little something about hitting clutch shots. Hill stayed two more years, leading Duke to the national championship game in 1994 before falling to Arkansas. He had a solid NBA career I guess.
There’s a reason we call it March Madness, and Christian Laettner’s shot spouted mayhem.