Two former Duke basketball stars have little choice but to take part in their NBA team’s first preseason game tonight in the Dean Dome, but that doesn’t mean they can’t show support for the Blue Devils while they’re there.
After all, both–they each played one season in Durham before leaving for the NBA–have publicly embraced their former school without shame ever since they entered the league.
On Friday morning, they took it to another level. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweeted out a photo of the pair donning Duke basketball hoodies in the locker room before they took the floor for a shootaround in preparation for the team’s first preseason game Friday night at 7:30 p.m. EST against the Charlotte Hornets in the Dean E. Smith Center on the UNC campus.
“Once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil,” Irving said, according to Washburn.
On Thursday night, Irving and Tatum took the time to travel eight miles down the road to a place where Duke gear is a far more common sight. The duo dined with the current Duke basketball players and coaches in Durham.
Irving, who suffered a toe injury during his eighth game as a Blue Devil in 2010 that kept him out of the remainder of team’s regular season games, has never suited up for a game in the Dean Dome (he was on the bench, however, during Duke’s 81-67 loss at UNC on March 5, 2011).
Tatum did play in his one appearance at the Dean Dome as a Blue Devil. However, that game also ended in the Blue Devils’ defeat at the hands of the Tar Heels (the final score of that game on March 4, 2017, was 90-83).
Tatum and Irving, both of whom made a recent list of the top 100 current players in the NBA, are expected to play integral roles on a Celtics squad that is expected by most to win the Eastern Conference this season. On Friday night, though, they will be hoping to learn what it feels like to win a game in the Dean Dome.
And, win or lose, don’t be surprised to see them wearing those same Duke hoodies as they exit the building.