On Sunday, a cable-TV documentary is scheduled to shower glory on Christian Laettner and Brian Davis for the back-to-back basketball national titles they helped deliver 20 years ago to Duke University.
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But later next week they have a court appearance in Washington, D.C., about a loan their real-estate company failed to repay to former Duke captain Johnny Dawkins.
The judge in the case, having last year ordered Laettner, Davis and a company of theirs to pay Dawkins $671,309, will decide whether to hold them in contempt of court in regard to their failure to do so.
In court documents and in interviews, Laettner, Davis and their attorney say any failure to make court-ordered payments is attributable to a lack of resources.
Court documents show that Laettner and Davis individually and their real-estate businesses are defendants in several civil lawsuits seeking repayment of loans worth about $30 million.
The plaintiffs include sports celebrities like ex-Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen, who played with Laettner on the 1992 Olympic team. In August 2010, a state court judge in Lake County, Ill., ordered Laettner and Davis to repay Pippen $2.5 million. Through his attorney, Pippen said he had been paid half that amount and that litigation between the parties continues.
"What they have done isn’t honest — I feel cheated," three-time All-Pro Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman said. He had lent money to the real-estate ventures of Laettner and Davis, which operated under a multitude of names.
In January 2011, a federal court judge in Maryland ordered Laettner and Davis to pay Merriman $3.7 million.
Laettner declined to be interviewed. Speaking on behalf of their real-estate companies, Davis said, "Me and Christian took a lot of risk." Davis said he regretted alienating friends, particularly Dawkins, whom he has known for 25 years.
Davis attributed their financial woes to overaggressive expansion and to the same economic downturn that toppled real-estate empires across America. "The timing of the economic collapse and our game plan was not good," he said.
Creditors in various courts are questioning whether Laettner and Davis are overstating their inability to repay loans.
But there is no doubt that basketball is not reaping the glory and earnings it once did for Laettner, whose winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament ranks as perhaps the greatest moment in college-basketball history.
After that came 14 respectable years in the NBA, during which he earned tens of millions of dollars.