Duke basketball: The 10 greatest NBA Blue Devils of all time

Former Duke basketball players Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Former Duke basketball players Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Former Duke basketball player Zion Williamson (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball’s all-time NBA players: HONORABLE MENTIONS

Bob Verga – As alluded to earlier, Verga played only one season in the NBA after lighting up scoreboards in the ABA. And he averaged only 5.0 points across 21 games that year. Just not quite enough here.

Mike Gminski – G-Man was about as close as any honorable mention to making the top 10, but some recency bias perhaps kept him out. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-11 center was a double-double machine during his prime in the 1980s with the New Jersey Nets and then Philadelphia 76ers.

Christian Laettner – While Laettner is undoubtedly the greatest Blue Devil of all time — plus, his pro career draws unfair jokes from anti-Dukies seeing that he lasted 13 seasons and even made the 1997 All-Star Game — his early Minnesota Timberwolves teams lost a ton of games. Plus, his individual numbers dropped off significantly in his early 30s.

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Shane Battier – In terms of NBA Finals heroics to help LeBron James win a title, Battier ranks right up there with Kyrie Irving; without his oh-so-clutch 6-for-8 clip from beyond the arc in Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat might not have been the 2013 champs. That said, the Duke legend averaged double-figure points in only three of his 13 pro seasons.

Corey Maggette – Maggette’s 14 seasons in the league did amount to more points than all but four Blue Devils in history. Yet most of the first-ever Duke basketball one-and-done’s peak seasons came on dismal Los Angeles Clippers teams in the early 2000s. And as a career 32.4 percent 3-point shooter, he typically required a bunch of shots to reach his high scoring totals.

Mike Dunleavy – Dunleavy’s days as a professional spanned 15 seasons and six franchises. Though the former No. 3 overall pick (2002) was a consistent 10-20 point scorer for an 11-year span, he was never an All-Star, and his best years coincided with below-.500 Indiana Pacers squads.

Zion Williamson – No offense to Zion, but averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 boards across 24 NBA games — albeit incredible for a guy who only recently turned 20 — is just insufficient data for this ranking of Blue Devils’ NBA careers. On the other hand, be sure to check back for updates at this time next year. There’s no limit to how high Williamson may jump.

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