Duke Basketball: Top 10 game-winning shots of the Coach K era

Duke basketball fans will forever remember where they were when Cam Reddish drilled a 3-pointer to stun Florida State on Saturday, but where does the shot rank against all game-winners of the Coach K era?

Lazy loading placeholder

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Duke Basketball

Every Duke basketball game tells a story. Some are horror stories. Occasionally, there are mysteries. Most are just tales of Blue Devils cruising along Victory Highway.

The best ones, though, are thrillers that end in romance.

In the last paragraph of those games' last page, a beloved character experiences a moment -- a winning moment. All Duke fans fall madly in love and stash the moment away in their memory bank so that they can draw upon it anytime their spirits need a boost.

Such a memory was added to the vault on Saturday (more on that to come).

First, allow me to explain how I compiled this list:

As a lifelong Blue Devil junkie who was born at the end of Mike Krzyzewski's first season at the helm of the Duke basketball program, my vault has required frequent expansions over the years. But some of the game-winning love stories have been deserving of a vault all their own. Those are the 10 in this slideshow. Also, I've ranked them -- not an easy task.

You may not agree with all of them or their order, and that's OK; after all, your memories are your memories.

But no sane fan will disagree with my No. 1 -- even though it's not the game-winning shot that you are expecting it to be...

10. Chris Duhon vs. Wake Forest

Date: Feb. 24, 2001

Place: Lawrence Joel Coliseum

Final Score: Duke 82, Wake Forest 80

It happened at the buzzer, a floater to sink the hopes of an ACC foe on its home court. And it happened just a couple weeks before the Duke basketball team entered the Big Dance that ended with the program's third national championship.

And it all happened so fast.

With 7.5 seconds left, No. 22 Wake Forest's Robert O'Kelley drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 80. Immediately, No. 3 Duke's Shane Battier inbounded to Jason Williams, who scurried down the floor before pulling up for what looked like it would be a 3-pointer of his own.

But it wasn't. It was a midair fake and beautiful dish to Chris Duhon near the corner.

The freshman guard, with then just 2.0 seconds on the clock, took one quick dribble to his left to scoot by the defender and tossed up a floater from about 15 feet.

Nothing but net.

No time left.

Nothing but pain for the Demon Deacons.

Nothing but pure joy, followed by loads more that year, for Duke basketball fans.

No way I'll ever forget it.

3 of 11

9. Grayson Allen vs. Virginia

Date: Feb. 13, 2016

Place: Cameron Indoor Stadium

Final score: Duke 63, Virginia 62

What's most fun about this shot is that non-Duke fans -- especially Virginia lovers -- wailed because they didn't think it should have counted.

And it makes it even sweeter that they were absolutely right. You can't land before releasing the ball, but Grayson Allen did -- and got away with it.

What a shame. Oh well, it's a not a travel if it isn't called.

Besides, if we're going to be technical about the sport, eye-gouging is supposed to at least be a foul; apparently, though, when the victim is a Duke basketball player, it isn't. Imagine the uproar from Duke haters if Allen had done this:

But back to Allen's shot at home against the Cavaliers.

Duke entered the game unranked with an 18-6 record. The season needed a big win -- a boost -- and it came against No. 7 Virginia.

UVA's Malcolm Brogdon had just hit an over-the-shoulder layup to give his team a 62-61 lead. Following a timeout with 6.0 seconds left, though, Allen inbounded the ball to Marshall Plumlee, who then handed it back to Allen. The sophomore guard then used five dribbles to drive into the lane, trying to draw a foul, and with his body nearly sideways, he put up a one-handed bank shot.



Game over.

I'll cherish it forever.

4 of 11

8. Chris Duhon vs. UNC

Date: Feb. 5, 2004

Place: Dean Dome

Final Score: Duke 83, UNC 81 (OT)

There's nothing finer than a win at Carolina. Well, maybe a national championship -- still, though, the look of devastated Tar Heel faces is priceless.

And I'll always be grateful to Duhon for choosing this game to display another game-winner. After all, this time around, the game-winner coincided with Roy Williams' first game against Duke as head coach of the Tar Heels.

Welcome to the rivalry, Ol' Roy.

This time, Duhon was a senior leader. This time, the shot came at the end of overtime. Like his shot at Wake Forest three years prior, though, this one followed a 3-pointer that provided oh-so-brief hope to the opponent.

UNC's Rashad McCants knocked one down from beyond the arc with 13.5 seconds remaining to tie the score at 81. Before ESPN's Dick Vitale could catch his breath, Duhon had already taken the inbound from freshman Luol Deng and was off to the races, using only seven seconds to take seven dribbles and get to the basket, unimpeded, for a reverse layup with 6.5 seconds on the clock.

The Tar Heels ended up finding Melvin Scott in the corner for a 3-point attempt that would've won the game. But it never had a chance.

And Duhon's heroics from that night never have a chance to escape my memory bank.

5 of 11

7. Cam Reddish vs. Florida State

Date: Jan. 12, 2019

Place: Donald L. Tucker Center

Final Score: Duke 80, Florida State 78

The freshest always feels like the best. This one wasn't the best. But it sure was sweet.

Freshman Cam Reddish had been struggling with his overall game leading up to this game -- entering the game at Florida State, he had only hit seven of his last 38 attempts from downtown and didn't seem able to find his role on this team. Well, expect to see that those struggles have officially been put to sleep.

You know what happened. The world knows what happened. You know the haters don't want to give Coach K credit for drawing up a masterpiece on the final possession.

In case you've been asleep for more than a day, though, take a look above (or may I recommend the love-story version in the tweet below). And if you're like me, at the moment, you don't feel like you ever want to stop looking at the highlight that came with the No. 1 Blue Devils trailing by one and 2.8 seconds on the clock.

Looks like "2.8 seconds" just became an entry into Duke basketball history.

Reddish, despite whatever his future holds, can always hold onto this magical moment that he gifted to Duke basketball fans everywhere.

Without Zion Williamson on the floor the entire second half due to the eye-gouging he suffered -- shown two slides above -- the Blue Devils (now 14-1) particularly needed Reddish to step up. Not only did he score 23 points, anchored by his 5-for-8 performance from beyond the arc, but he showed that he has ice running through his veins -- good to know, you know, should Duke need him in a similar situation come March...

Or on April 8.

For now, though, it's time to just...

Relish the swish from Reddish.

6 of 11

6. Sean Dockery vs. Virginia Tech

Date: Dec. 4, 2005

Place: Cameron Indoor Stadium

Final Score: Duke 77, Virginia Tech 75

The unranked Hokies were all set to run around Coach K Court screaming and hollering due to knocking off the No. 1 Blue Devils (6-0 at the time).

Not so fast.

Virginia Tech held a 75-74 lead, but Duke still had 1.6 seconds left to pull off a miracle.

Josh McRoberts inbounded the ball to halfcourt into the hands of senior guard Sean Dockery, one of the grittiest on-ball defenders in program history who was not known for his prowess on offense.

But after this night, he was certainly known for his halfcourt heave -- well, two steps in from halfcourt. He took one dribble after catching the pass from McRoberts, flung the ball toward the rim, and it rattled its way in.

Cameron erupted.

Meanwhile, a few minutes after it happened, I was foolish enough to go for a drive to get some Taco Bell. My tire wished I had first taken a moment to relax before operating heavy machinery. I was not drunk off alcohol, but I was drunk in love.

And due to my overwhelming feelings of adoration for Dockery at that moment, I wasn't paying attention, swerved against a curb, and popped a tire. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

However, never will I ever get behind the wheel of an automobile again immediately following a Duke basketball player's game-winner that is worthy of being on this list.

Thanks to Dockery, I learned my lesson.

7 of 11

5. Austin Rivers vs. UNC

Date: Feb. 8, 2012

Place: Dean Dome

Final Score: Duke 85, UNC 84

Honestly, I didn't think any Blue Devil would ever have a shot in the Dean Dome that would give me more joy than Duhon's layup.


Now, I'm convinced that no Blue Devil could ever top the moment in the rivalry when Austin Rivers' 3-pointer at the buzzer instantly turned upside down the smiles of more than 20,000 Tar Heels in attendance.

Yet I hope I'm wrong again.

But if the shot by Rivers stands as the all-time greatest Duke game-winner in Chapel Hell, I cannot complain; that moment was simply heavenly.

The Tar Heels led by 10 with 2:15 to play, but a flurry of incredible shots by the Blue Devils cut into that lead in a hurry. A three from Tyler Thornton. A three -- seemingly from Durham -- from Seth Curry. A silky baseline jumper from Ryan Kelly.

And after a tip-in by UNC's Tyler Zeller -- into the basket that he was defending -- following a nothing-but-air deep attempt from Kelly, I was officially down on the floor praying for a memory-of-a-lifetime victory.

Zeller then missed a free throw with 13 seconds remaining and his team up by two.

And following a rebound by Mason Plumlee -- who handed the ball over to the team's freshman point guard -- and Rivers' smooth-operator 14 dribbles to the other end, Zeller missed an opportunity to play better defense against a 3-point attempt from Rivers.

What followed was one of the most beautiful sights these two eyes have ever seen, the memory of which will never leave me.

8 of 11

4. Christian Laettner vs. Connecticut

Date: March 24, 1990

Place: Izod Center

Final Score: Duke 79, Connecticut 78 (OT)

This was the first time I ever experienced the unrivaled thrill of a game-winner from a Duke basketball player.

And this was the first time I began dreaming that Christian Laettner would be the one to take the program to the promised land -- aka, its first national title. Although a title didn't come until a year later, the shot from the then-sophomore big man against Connecticut in the '90 Elite Eight was a precursor to the abundance of gleeful moments in years to come.

Down one with 2.6 seconds to play, Krzyzewski noticed what the Huskies' defense was doing to keep the ball out of the Blue Devil guards' hands and yelled instructions to Laettner, who was about to inbound the ball from the sideline in front of Duke's bench, with one word:


That meant for Laettner to pass it into his roommate, Brian Davis, who would immediately toss the ball right back to Laettner.

And the feeling from the result mirrored the name of the play:


A clutch 14-footer from Laettner. A statement:

Mr. Clutch had arrived...

9 of 11

3. Christian Laettner vs. UNLV

Date: March 30, 1991

Place: RCA Dome

Final Score: Duke 79, UNLV 77

Normally, a top game-winner wouldn't be a pair of free throws.

But when those free throws come with 12.7 seconds to play in what became the greatest win in the Duke basketball program's history, they're more than worthy.

Calm. Cool. Collected.

That was Laettner's demeanor at the foul line with the score tied and following a foul by UNLV -- who was riding a 45-game win streak that dated back to the previous season, which ended with the Runnin' Rebels thumping the Blue Devils by 30 in the title game.

Yes, Duke ended that streak as a result of a team effort that included a clutch 3-pointer by Bobby Hurley and an equally clutch 3-point play by Davis (see final two minutes above). But it was Laettner who gave the Blue Devils the game-winner by knocking down the freebies.

Had he missed both, UNLV -- with no pressure -- probably would have scored on the ensuing possession; if not, overtime likely would have favored the defending champs. Had he missed one, UNLV could have won with a drive to the basket.

But Laettner did what Duke basketball fans had become accustomed to seeing him do: Exactly what was needed to win.

What. A. Win.

What. A. Moment.

10 of 11

2. Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky

Date: March 28, 1992

Place: The Spectrum

Final Score: Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (OT)

This one doesn't really need an explanation. After all, the ending of it is required knowledge for all Duke basketball fans. But just in case there are any Kentucky fans reading this, I believe it to be my duty to remind them of what took place.

Time: 2.1 seconds left in overtime.

Score: Kentucky 103, Duke 102

What almost happened: The Wildcats, fresh off NCAA suspensions and using several senior walk-ons with loads of heart, would have advanced to the '92 Final Four by knocking off the defending national champions and No. 1 team in the country.

What didn't happen: What I just typed.

What did happen: Following a prayer bank shot in the lane by Kentucky's Sean Woods, Coach K called a timeout. Grant Hill would inbound the ball. Laettner stood at the other end in front of the foul line. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino decided not to have any of his players guard the inbound. So Hill calmly heaved it to Laettner, who calmly caught it and took one dribble to his right before turning to his left and putting up a fadeaway jumper -- a true masterpiece.


Kentucky players laid motionless in agony as Duke basketball fans worldwide celebrated in pure ecstasy. A week later, the Blue Devils cut down the nets -- again.

The best game-winner in college basketball history.

But was it the best game-winning shot for a Blue Devil across the entire Coach K era?

Not even close. We must go back to the start of it all for No. 1...

11 of 11

1. Tom Butters vs. The Critics

Lazy loading placeholder

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Date: March 18, 1980

Place: Duke University

Final Score: Duke wins when Tom Butters takes a shot by hiring Mike Krzyzewski

Yes, this most certainly was a game-winning shot. Actually, more like a games-winning shot.

ALSO READ: Top 10 wins of the Coach K era

To be exact, 1,041 of them (and counting; 1,114 overall). Five national championships (and counting). Twelve final fours (and counting). His hiring was the overriding reason for all of the shots on this list and all those that, despite being spectacular and memorable, didn't make it (note: the count of game-winning shots by the Blue Devils under Coach K has grown so high that a list of 10 really doesn't do it justice; if I had ranked them all, this slideshow would have required much more than a few hours and turned into a book).

It was 14,190 days ago when then-Duke athletics director Tom Butters, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 77, announced that he was taking a shot on a 33-year-old he believed in -- even if the majority had never heard of him (much less know how to spell or pronounce his name correctly).

Krzyzewski had just finished a 9-17 season in his fifth year as the head coach of his alma mater, Army. In other words, Butters' choice seemed more than a bit nutty.

And 39 years later, despite his accomplishments, critics still make claims as nutty as those on Twitter from haters on Saturday following Reddish's game-winner:

Coach K had nothing to do with getting Cam Reddish wide open.

Coach K didn't draw that up. It was just bad defense from FSU.

I could list more messages from jealous critics. But why bother? Who has the time?

As I've explained -- and what this slideshow is all about -- Duke fans have too many game-winners to replay to pay any attention to the losers.

Just keep reliving all the best Duke basketball stories ever told. It's time-consuming, but your soul will always thank you.