One of the most enduring, inaccurate stereotypes about Duke basketball is that its players go on to flop in the NBA.
Sure, former Blue Devil legends like Christian Laettner, Cherokee Parks and JJ Redick never matched their college accomplishments in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean that all Dukies have fallen flat on their faces as professionals.
There have been many Duke alums that have thrived in the Association. Of course, when it comes to naming those who thrived the most, it’s a task much easier said than done.
Nevertheless, here’s the 10 greatest NBA careers for former Duke Blue Devils.
Some Duke fans may find it blasphemous that young Cavilers point guard Kyrie Irving got onto this list.
Irving participated in 11 whole games for the Blue Devils and has only played in the NBA for one year but oh, what a year it was.
Irving showed Cavs fans why he was worthy of being the NBA’s top overall draft pick during the strike-shortened season of 2011-12. That’s when Irving put up 18.5 PPG and over five APG en route to easily earning the Rookie of the Year award.
If Irving can somehow get over the injuries that have plagued him the past few years, he has the potential to catapult his way up this list when it’s remade several years down the road.
In between his days as a former Dukie and the current general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, Danny Ferry was one of the NBA’s more potent three-point specialists.
Ferry finished his 13-year NBA run shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He was a key player off the bench when the San Antonio Spurs won their second NBA title back in 2002-03.
Ferry’s best year came back in 1995-96, when he averaged 13.3 PPG and drilled a career-best 143 treys with the Cleveland Cavs.
Carlos Boozer may not have been the top star on the national championship Duke team of 2001.
However, the ten-year NBA veteran has gone on to have a very solid career with the Cavilers, Jazz and Bulls, respectively. The peak of Boozer’s pro stint came from 2006-2008, when he averaged over 20 PPG and 10 RPG in Utah.
These days, Boozer has teamed up with fellow Dukie Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to form a formidable frontcourt in the Windy City.
During his short two-year run with the Blue Devils, it was obvious that Luol Deng oozed superb athletic ability.
That ability has really shone during his time with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. Deng has turned into one of the league’s best wing players.
He has thrived under current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, averaging over 17 PPG the past two seasons. Deng and injured point guard Derrick Rose are considered Chicago’s two most talented Bulls by many NBA experts.
Seeing what Deng has accomplished during his seven-years in a Bulls uniform, it’s tough to disagree with that sentiment.
Corey Maggette was basically at Duke long enough (one season) for just a cup of coffee.
Nevertheless, the 13-year pro veteran has had a solid NBA career. Maggette has averaged 16.2 PPG in his first dozen years in the NBA, playing for the Magic, Clippers, Warriors, Bucks and Bobcats.
This season, he’s averaging 5.5 PPG with the Detroit Pistons.
Shane Battier’s NBA career certainly has paled in comparison to his legendary Duke days.
Still, Battier’s time as a pro certainly has been no disappointment. During his 11-year career with the Grizzles, Rockets and Heat, Battier has averaged nearly 10 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 SPG and 1 BPG. He is also a two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team member.
And like in college, Battier finally won a championship ring with the Heat last season, earning it by—of course—playing tenacious defense and hitting deadly outside shots throughout Miami’s exciting playoff run.
Arguably Duke’s greatest big man of all time, Mike Gminski has thrived no matter what he has done during his time in the sport of basketball.
With the Blue Devils, Gminski scored over 2,300 career points, pulled down over 1,200 rebounds and blocked over 300 shots. In 14 NBA seasons, Gminski scored over 10,000 career points with the Nets, 76ers, Hornets and Bucks.
And since then, the G Man has become one of college basketball’s most insightful color commentators. Hearing him and play by play man Tim Brando call at least one Duke game per year on television is pure gold.
During his short time in Durham, Elton Brand was one of the game’s most dominant big men.
That trend lasted the first several seasons into his long-time NBA career, also. During his first eight years in the league, Brand averaged over 20 PPG and pulled down double digit RPG with the Bulls and Clippers. Brand’s productivity has dipped since then—part of the reason he was released by the Philadelphia 76ers this past offseason.
Still, it’s undeniable that for awhile, Brand was one of the game’s most productive—if not overlooked—low post players.
Jeff Mullins was one of the greatest Blue Devils to never play for Mike Krzyzewski and one of the ACC’s 50 greatest players of all time: an accomplishment he was recognized for back in 2002.
But not only was Mullins a legendary Dukie, he was a damn good NBA player as well. Mullins made the NBA All Star team three straight years from 1968-1970 with the San Francisco Warriors.
In 12 years with the Warriors and St. Louis Hawks, Mullins averaged over 16 PPG. During his prime in the Bay Area, he tormented defenders with a vicious offensive game and a stylin’ 70s outfit to boot (hello, sideburns and short shorts!).
Jackie Moon would be proud.
Grant Hill makes the top of this list mainly for the incredible longevity of his NBA career.
Few Blue Devil alums have been as solid for a longer period of time in the pros as Hill. Even at age 40, Hill continues to put up at least 10 PPG. That’s what he’s putting up with the Clippers this season—his 17th in the Association. Overall, he’s averaged 17 PPG in his superb career.
The former member of the Magic, Pistons and Suns has overcome injury plagued seasons early on to become a model of stability, thanks largely to his strict diet.
That’s just part of the reason why Hill has aged like a fine wine.