Duke basketball has been a powerhouse in college basketball for decades. It’s no surprise that some of its alumni have gone on to have incredible success in the NBA. From Karl Malone and Grant Hill, to Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, Duke NBA players are consistently some of the best in the league. In this article, we will take a look at who are the greatest Duke NBA players of all time.
Phenomenal playmakers, imposing powerhouses, and prolific point producers: The Duke Blue Devils have produced a plethora of professional players who have brought their dominance to the next level. Whether it be through clutch shots or tenacious defense, these titans of talent have found success at every turn. From three-point sharpshooters to rim-crashing dunkers, these former collegiate stars have left an indelible mark on the game of basketball.
The Dukies have taken their talents from Durham to arenas worldwide, bringing with them championship pedigree and an unrivaled spirit of competition. Through hard work and dedication, these hoops heroes have become some of the most renowned and revered names in the sport – but which one stands above all? Join us as we explore who is truly the greatest Duke NBA player ever!
Zion Williamson – The Phenom
Zion Williamson, a name that’s been turning heads since he was in high school. His athleticism and skill set has made him one of the most sought-after players in basketball. He’s already taken the league by storm with his potential and abilities. Zion is not only an electrifying player on the court but also a great person off it as well.
He’s become a household name throughout basketball circles, and for good reason too – he’s truly a force to be reckoned with. He plays with such incredible power and passion that it seems like there’s no stopping him when he gets going. Not to mention his impressive ability to dominate both ends of the floor on any given night. Zion is quickly becoming one of the greatest NBA players Duke has ever produced.
In his very short time in the league, Zion has already done things we’ve never seen before, leaving us all wondering what else he can do next. He’s clearly among the best players in the world right now, and could possibly even become one of the best in history if he continues to play at this level for years to come. From coast-to-coast, Zion Williamson has been dubbed “the phenom” for his incredible accomplishments thus far.
This sets up perfectly for Kyrie Irving – the floor general – who looks to be just as impactful as Zion on both ends of the floor while bringing experience and leadership from being part of championship teams in Cleveland and Boston.
Kyrie Irving – The Floor General
Kyrie Irving is like a conductor of an orchestra, leading the tempo of the game and orchestrating every move with precision. He is one of the greatest Duke NBA players of all time. Here are four reasons why:
His agility and ball-handling skills are unparalleled, making him incredibly difficult to guard. He can make any defender look foolish with his smooth crossovers and step-backs.
His shooting ability is second to none; he has an array of shots in his arsenal, from pull-ups to deep threes. He also has a knack for coming up clutch in the most important moments.
What makes Kyrie so special is his court vision; he reads the defense like a book, anticipating plays as they develop. This allows him to find open teammates when defenders collapse on him or drive in for easy buckets himself.
Above all else, he’s fearless; no moment is too big or too small for Kyrie Irving. He always steps up when it matters most and will never shy away from taking big shots in crunch time.
Kyrie Irving’s unique combination of skill sets has earned him well deserved recognition as one of the greatest Duke NBA players ever. His excellence on both ends of the floor has made him an integral part of multiple championship teams and has cemented his legacy as a floor general who can take over any game at any given moment. Now, it’s time to talk about Grant Hill – the all-around player who made great contributions during his playing days at Duke University and beyond.
Grant Hill – The All-Around Player
Grant Hill is the epitome of an all-around player. His versatility on the court was unmatched, and he could play both offense and defense with ease. He averaged 16.7 points, 6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game over his 19-year career. In addition to his stats, Hill was a 7x All-Star and 5x All-NBA selection during his prime years in Detroit and Orlando. He was also known for being a great leader in the locker room who had an aura of professionalism about him that helped his teams stay focused.
Off the court, Hill has been just as impressive. He has been active in philanthropy throughout his life, even winning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2004 for his work in community service and charity work. He also attended Duke University where he was a two-time Academic All-American which is a testament to his intelligence and dedication to learning that he still carries today.
Grant Hill’s influence on basketball cannot be overstated; he truly embodied what it means to be an all-around player both on and off the court. That combination of talent and character made him one of the greatest Duke NBA players of all time without question. As we move onto Elton Brand – The Iron Man – we can see that there are many different types of great players from Duke who have made their mark on the league over its history.
Elton Brand – The Iron Man
Elton Brand is arguably the iron man of Duke NBA players. He was drafted first overall in 1999 and played for 16 seasons in the NBA. During that span, he was an All-Star twice, All-NBA once, and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2000. He averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds per game throughout his career, while playing with five different teams.
Brand was known to be a hard worker and a leader on the court. He led all rookies in minutes during his rookie season and never missed more than two consecutive games throughout his entire career. His passion for basketball never wavered, even after enduring multiple injuries over the years.
Brand’s hard work helped him become one of the all-time great Duke NBA players. Although he may not have achieved as much individual success as some of his peers, he was still able to leave his mark on the game through sheer dedication and determination. As we move on to Danny Ferry – The Swingman – it’s clear that Elton Brand will continue to be remembered as one of Duke’s best ever NBA players.
Danny Ferry – The Swingman
Danny Ferry, the fifth Duke NBA player on our list of greatest of all time, is renowned for his versatility. He ranks third in Duke’s all-time scoring average with 19.1 points per game and sixth in rebounds with 8.1 per game. His career as a professional basketball player spanned 13 years, during which he was both an NBA All-Star and an Olympian.
Ferry played six seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers before signing with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. During his tenure with the Cavaliers, he helped lead them to four playoff appearances and two division titles while averaging 12.7 points and 4.6 assists per game over his six-year stint there. He also made one All-Star team in 1997-98 when he averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds per game that season.
Ferry was known as a great shooter from long range, making him a valuable asset for any team looking for a swingman who could hit threes from anywhere on the court. He retired after spending three seasons with the Spurs, where he averaged 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc over his final three seasons in the league.
Ferry’s career was marked by consistency throughout — no matter where his journey took him, he remained a reliable contributor who could fill multiple roles on any squad.
Carlos Boozer – The Sixth Man
“Practice makes perfect,” and that certainly applies to basketball. Carlos Boozer was the sixth man for Duke’s NBA players, and he showed that practice can help even the most unlikely of players excel.
Originally, Boozer was not a highly-touted prospect out of high school. He had a decent senior season and still chose to attend Duke University due to their strong academic reputation. After joining the Blue Devils, he began to show what practice could do – he improved his game significantly, becoming one of the team’s best players by his junior year. His hard work paid off in 2003 when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 35th overall pick.
Boozer went on to have a successful career in the NBA, playing for several teams over 13 seasons. He became known as an excellent rebounder and dependable scorer from mid-range as well as from inside the paint. His career average of 16 points per game is impressive for someone who wasn’t expected to be much more than a role player at Duke; it is clear that his dedication to practice helped him reach great heights in his professional career.
That is but one example of how hard work and dedication can pay off – a lesson that all aspiring basketball players should take note of if they wish to achieve greatness on their own terms.
J.J. Redick – The Sniper
J.J. Redick is widely regarded as one of the best Duke NBA players of all time. He was known as a deadly sniper, able to hit threes with ease and score from anywhere on the court. His ability to hit contested shots and pull up off the dribble made him a formidable opponent for any team he faced. Redick was also an excellent free-throw shooter, hitting over 80% of his attempts during his 12 year career in the NBA.
His time at Duke was just as impressive, where he was a two-time All American and led the Blue Devils to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004 and 2005. During his collegiate career, Redick set numerous records, including most points scored in ACC history and most three-pointers made in NCAA history. He also won several awards for his play, including being named ACC Player of the Year twice and National Player of the Year once.
Redick has always been admired for his work ethic and determination to be one of the greatest Duke NBA players ever. He worked tirelessly to improve his game every year, becoming a better shooter and defender as he progressed through his career. Even after retirement, Redick continues to show how dedicated he is by working hard on developing young players through coaching clinics and camps around North America.
His legacy will always be remembered as one of great success both on and off the court – something that many current Duke NBA players strive towards achieving today. With his impressive shooting ability and tireless work ethic still inspiring younger generations of basketball fans everywhere, Redick’s name will always hold pride among those who consider themselves true Duke fans.
Corey Maggette – The Enforcer
Corey Maggette was the enforcer of Duke’s NBA players. He was a force to be reckoned with on the court, both physical and mentally. A great example of his powerful presence is when he single-handedly helped lead the Los Angeles Clippers to their first ever winning season in 2005. It was a historic moment for the team, and Maggette’s defensive intensity made sure it happened.
Maggette was also an offensive powerhouse. He averaged 20 points per game in his career, including three seasons where he scored over 25 points per game. His ability to score from anywhere on the court made him one of the most dangerous scorers in Duke history. He could also get to the free throw line often and convert from there, making him even more of a threat for opposing teams.
Throughout his career, Maggette was known as a leader who could make those around him better. He had an infectious energy that teammates fed off of, and it helped Duke win many games during his time there. Maggette left an everlasting impact on Duke basketball and proved himself as one of its greatest NBA players of all time. As we transition into discussing Shane Battier – The Glue Guy – next, it is clear that Corey Maggette set the foundation for what would become an All-Time great Duke team.
Shane Battier – The Glue Guy
Shane Battier was the antithesis to Corey Maggette’s enforcer role. While Maggette bulled his way through opponents, Battier made his name as the glue guy – the player who kept everything together. He was always in the right place at the right time, and often made spectacular plays without drawing attention to himself. But make no mistake; Shane Battier was a vital part of Duke’s NBA success, and a key figure in any all-time greatest players list.
Battier was one of those players who could do it all. A defensive specialist with an uncanny ability to anticipate plays and make steals before they happened, he also had a surprisingly accurate outside shot that made him a threat on both sides of the ball. He wasn’t quite as flashy as some of his peers, but he came up big when needed and provided a steady presence that every team needs in order to succeed.
His selflessness off the court was just as impressive as his play on it; Battier always put his teammates first and never sought out individual glory or recognition. Even after leaving Duke for the pros, he maintained close ties with his former college squad and remained active in the Blue Devil community throughout his career. His influence is still felt today, both by current players and by anyone lucky enough to have witnessed Shane Battier in action.
Bobby Hurley – The Playmaker
Bobby Hurley, the playmaker, is one of Duke’s most successful NBA players of all time. In 11 seasons with the Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies, Hurley averaged eight points and six assists per game. He was a three-time All-Star and made the playoffs in four out of his 11 seasons. His best season was in 1995 when he finished second in the league in assists with 10 per game.
Hurley was known for his passing ability and leadership on the court. He had an uncanny ability to make plays with both his feet and hands, as well as reading defenses quickly to get his team into advantageous positions. He was also a vocal leader who could rally his teammates to perform at their highest level during games.
Off the court, Hurley put up similar numbers in terms of giving back to the community. As a philanthropist, he opened two charter schools that focus on preparing students for college success. He also regularly volunteers at basketball camps across the country to help mentor young players and give them advice about succeeding at basketball and life after sports.
TIP: To learn more about Bobby Hurley’s career accomplishments, watch highlights from some of his best performances on YouTube or read articles written by sportswriters who covered him during his playing days.
Christian Laettner – The Leader
Could Christian Laettner be the greatest Duke NBA player of all time? It is certainly an interesting theory, one that evokes different emotions in different audiences. Let us investigate further.
Laettner was a leader on and off the court. He was a four-time All American, two-time National Player of the Year, and won two national championships at Duke. On top of that, he was a 12-time NBA All Star who demonstrated consistent leadership skills and game intelligence. His knowledge of the game, combined with his natural ability to inspire his teammates, made him a formidable leader throughout his career in both college and professional basketball.
Furthermore, Laettner was also known for his clutch shots and ability to make plays when they mattered most. He hit an iconic buzzer-beater to send Duke past Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight that lives on in NCAA lore. In addition, Laettner’s stats speak for themselves: he ranks 18th all-time among NBA players in three point field goals made, seventh all-time among Duke players in total points scored in the NBA, and second all-time among Duke players in total rebounds in the NBA.
All these factors considered lead us to believe that Laettner is indeed one of the greatest Duke NBA players ever – but could he be the greatest? To answer this question we must explore another great player from Duke: Mike Dunleavy Jr., The Rebounder.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. – The Rebounder
Mike Dunleavy Jr. is like a wall, rebounding the ball with determination and strength from any angle. He was one of the greatest Duke NBA players of all time, ranking in at #12 on the list. Here are three impressive feats that make him stand out:
- Dunleavy earned an All-Rookie Second Team selection in his first season with Golden State Warriors.
- He was selected to play in the 3-point shooting contest during his time with Portland Trail Blazers.
- In 2009, he set a career high in rebounds per game (7.1).
Dunleavy’s success was built on his ability to rebound and play defense consistently throughout his career. His tenacity and athleticism allowed him to become a key contributor for several teams throughout the league, making him an invaluable asset to any team he played for. Without Mike Dunleavy Jr., Duke would not have had such a successful track record of producing talented NBA players over the years – a testament to his impact on the game of basketball. As we move forward, let’s take a look at another great Duke NBA player – Luol Deng – The Veteran.
Luol Deng – The Veteran
Luol Deng is a veteran of the NBA unlike any other! A leader and role model for his teams, Luol has been a consistent presence in the league since 2004. His incredible longevity makes him truly unique and an absolute force to be reckoned with.
Throughout his career, Deng has been a jack of all trades, mastering virtually every position on the court. He was never one to shy away from any challenge and it certainly showed throughout his time in the NBA. His tremendous work ethic was evident night after night as he always put forth maximum effort on both ends of the floor.
From clutch performances in the playoffs to tenacious defense that won’t quit, Luol Deng’s legacy will forever remain in NBA history. His dedication and passion for basketball have resonated with both fans and players alike and have earned him a spot in Duke’s All-Time greatest NBA players list. With no signs of slowing down anytime soon, it’s safe to say that Luol Deng is here to stay!
Jayson Tatum – The Prodigy
Jayson Tatum is a prodigy in the Duke NBA players. He is only 21 years old and already has an impressive resume of accomplishments. After being drafted third overall in 2017, he was named to the All-Rookie team and was also voted onto his first All-Star game this season. He’s earned himself a spot as one of the top players in the league with his versatile offensive game, rebounding prowess, and defensive ability.
Tatum has been able to quickly adapt to the NBA’s style of play despite his young age. He is constantly improving on both ends of the court and showing why he deserves to be mentioned among Duke’s greatest NBA players of all time. His scoring average has increased each season, peaking at 23 points per game this past season, while also averaging seven rebounds and three assists per game. On defense, he can guard multiple positions due to his size and athleticism, making him a key part of Boston’s defensive scheme.
The future looks bright for Jayson Tatum as he continues to develop into one of the best players in the league. His potential is unlimited and it’ll be interesting to see how far he can take his career over the next few years. Moving forward, his name will likely be mentioned alongside some of Duke’s all-time greats as one of their most successful NBA graduates. With that said, it’s time to shift our focus onto JJ Barea – another important member of Duke’s historic alumni pool.
Jj Barea – The Little Guy
At first glance, it seems impossible that a player of such small stature could outplay some of the biggest names in the game. But that’s exactly what J.J. Barea has done throughout his illustrious NBA career. Standing at just 6’0″, Barea is one of the shortest players in the league—but don’t let his size fool you.
Barea may be small, but he plays big. His impressive ability to break down defenses and finish strong at the rim has earned him accolades from around the league, not to mention multiple trips to the playoffs. He also has a knack for making clutch shots when needed, something many big-name players struggle with.
But perhaps more impressive than his on-court accomplishments is Barea’s impact off the court. He was instrumental in helping rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and continues to advocate for causes important to him. His commitment to social justice and giving back make him not only an incredible basketball player, but an inspiring role model as well. J.J. Barea truly proves that great things come in small packages!
The Duke Basketball program has produced some of the greatest NBA Players of all time. Zion Williamson is a phenom, Kyrie Irving is a floor general, Grant Hill is an all-around player and Elton Brand the iron man. Danny Ferry, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Luol Deng, Jayson Tatum and JJ Barea have each made their own mark on the game.
These players have achieved greatness not only with their individual talent but also through their ability to work together as a team. They embody what it means to be part of the Duke family: excellence both on and off the court. It’s no wonder that this group of former Blue Devils stands among the best NBA players ever.
It’s said that success breeds success and in this case it certainly holds true. Just like Michael Jordan before them, these players are role models for those who dare to dream big and pursue greatness. As they continue to make history in the NBA, let us take a moment to celebrate these amazing Duke NBA Players – some of the greatest of all time.