No Duke basketball products under Mike Krzyzewski are all-time NBA legends.
On Thursday, in honor of this week’s tipoff to the NBA’s 75th anniversary season, the league revealed its list of the top 75 players from these past 75 years. Not a one is a Duke basketball alum.
That said, more than one national pundit has expressed dissatisfaction in not seeing former Blue Devil Grant Hill on the list.
Nevertheless, this absence of Blue Devils is indicative of the one knock on all-time NCAA wins leader Mike Krzyzewski over the years as the Hall of Famer nears his retirement in the spring.
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Yes, many of the five-time national champion’s top talents across his four-plus decades at the helm in Durham have gone on to fall short of undeniable greatness at the next level, for one reason or another. And no NBA Blue Devil has ever been the No. 1 weapon for a team in taking home a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
Given Coach K’s Grade A+ resume, including his being a head coach for three of Team USA’s Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016), the omission of Dukies on the all-time list stands out.
A few untimely injuries to Coach K’s Duke basketball greats over the years
If former 1991 and 1992 Duke national champ Grant Hill hadn’t missed the bulk of his prime in the early 2000s due to a multitude of ankle issues, then it’s a safe bet his name would have appeared on the list this week.
Meanwhile, we’ll never know what would have been for 2001 Duke national champ Jay Williams, who crashed his Yamaha bike into a streetlight following his rookie pro campaign and never again played in an NBA game after that.
But from the perspective of a Duke basketball fan, having to play the what-if game right now offers infinitely less satisfaction than the sight of a Blue Devil name would have provided. In other words, blaming lousy luck is pretty much a silly exercise.
On a positive note, though, guys like Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, and Paolo Banchero can still work to ensure that one or more of Coach K’s guys are among the NBA’s all-time top 100 when the league’s 100th anniversary arrives. Yet keep in mind that the current 74-year-old would need to be months away from celebrating his 100th birthday to see that materialize.