Duke Basketball: The Final Word on the All-Time Team By the Decades

BabyTateSenior Writer INovember 26, 2008

I began following Duke basketball after the War, the Second World War. In many ways, my connection with the Blue Devil program has defined my passion in sports.

Throughout the decades, I have maintained my relationship with the Duke basketball program and am proud to be associated with the school for over half a century.

Come with me on a tour of the greatest of the Duke players and coaches during the past 50 years listed decade by decade, position by position, and perhaps you will enjoy the experience while picking up some small chestnuts of information.


THE 1960s

Coach of the Decade—Vic Bubas: 1959–69 record, 213–67. Three Final Fours.

Player of the Decade—Art Heyman (pictured above), 1963 National Player of the Year. Runner-Up: Jeff Mullins, 1964 All-American and Olympic Gold Medal Winner.

FIRST TEAM                                                SECOND TEAM

PF: Art Heyman, 6'5" 208, 1960–63                PF: Doug Kistler, 6'9" 215, 1958–61

SF: Jeff Mullins, 6'4" 195, 1961–64                 SF: Jack Marin, 6'6" 210, 1963–66

C:  Mike Lewis,  6'7" 230, 1965–68                 C:  Jay Buckley, 6'11" 225, 1961–64

PG: Steve Vacendak, 6'1" 190, 1963–66          PG: Fred Schmidt, 6'3" 190, 1960–63

SG: Bob Verga, 6'0" 180, 1964–67                  SG: Howard Hurt, 6'3" 190, 1958–61


THE 1970s

Coach of the Decade—Bill Foster: 1974–80 record, 113–64. One Final Four

Player of the Decade—Mike Gminski, All-American 1978, '79, and '80. Runner-up: Randy Denton, All-American 1971.

FIRST TEAM                                                  SECOND TEAM

PF: Gene Banks, 6'7" 215, 1977–81                 PF: Bob Fleischer, 6'8" 215, 1972–75

SF: Kenny Dennard, 6'7" 200, 1977–81            SF: Rick Katherman, 6'7" 180, 1968–71

C:  Mike Gminski, 6'11" 240, 1976–80              C:  Randy Denton, 6'10" 240, 1968–71

PG: Dick DeVenzio, 5'10" 165, 1968–71            PG: Johnny Harrell, 6'0" 177, 1977–79

SG: Jim Spanarkel, 6'5" 200, 1975–79              SG: Tate Armstrong, 6'2" 183, 1973–77























THE 1980s

Coach of the Decade—Mike Krzyzewski: 1980–Current. Three Final Fours in '80s Decade.

Player of the Decade—Johnny Dawkins, 1986 National Player of the Year. Runner–Up: Danny Ferry, 1988 and 1989 National Player of the Year. 

FIRST TEAM                                                SECOND TEAM

PF: Mark Alarie, 6'8" 215, 1982–86                PF: Danny Meagher, 6'7" 215, 1981–85

SF: David Henderson, 6'5" 205, 1982–86        SF: Billy King, 6'6" 205, 1983–88

C:  Danny Ferry, 6'10" 230, 1985–89              C: Jay Bilas, 6'8" 240, 1982–86

PG: Tommy Amaker, 6'0" 155, 1983–87          PG: Quin Snyder, 6'3" 182, 1985–89

SG: Johnny Dawkins, 6'2" 170, 1982–86         SG: Vince Taylor, 6'5" 180, 1978–82


THE 1990s

Coach of the Decade—Mike Krzyzewski, 1980–Current. Two National Championships and Five Final Fours in '90s Decade.

Player of the Decade—Christian Laettner, 1992 National Player of the Year. Runner–Up: Grant Hill, 1994 National Player of the Year.

FIRST TEAM                                                    SECOND TEAM

PF: Roshown McCleod, 6'8" 220, 1996–98           PF: Antonio Lang, 6'8" 210, 1990–94

SF: Grant Hill, 6'8" 215, 1990–94                       SF: Brian Davis, 6'7" 215, 1988–92

C: Christian Laettner, 6'11" 230, 1988–92           C:  Elton Brand, 6'8" 260, 1997–99

PG: Bobby Hurley, 6'1" 168, 1989–93                 PG: S. Wojciechowski, 5'11" 180,'94-'98

SG: Trajan Langdon, 6'4" 195, 1995–99              SG: Jeff Capel, 6'5" 195, 1993–97



Coach of the Decade—Mike Krzyzewski, 1980–Current. One National Championship and two Final Fours in the decade, so far.

Player of the Decade—Shane Battier, 2001 National Player of the Year, three–time National Defensive Player of the Year. Runner–Up: Jay Williams, 2001 (shared w/ Battier) and 2002 National Player of the Year.

FIRST TEAM                                                     SECOND TEAM

PF: Shane Battier, 6'8" 220, 1997–01                 PF: Luol Deng, 6'8" 220, 2003–04

SF: Chris Carrawell, 6'6" 217, 1996–00               SF: Mike Dunleavy Jr., 6'9" 220 '99–02

C: Shelden Williams, 6'9" 260, 2002–06              C: Carlos Boozer, 6'9" 265, 1999–02

PG: Chris Duhon, 6'1" 190, 2000–2004               PG: Sean Dockery, 6'2" 185, 2002–06

SG: Jay Williams, 6'2" 196, 1999–02                   SG: J.J. Redick, 6'4" 190, 2002–06


A point of clarification is in order here. These are all players I have watched play either in person or on television. I do not use any professional basketball experience—this is a ranking of how the players performed at Duke.

An issue of some concern is the situation where players appear to be of equal ability such as Mike Gminski and Randy Denton, Chris Carrawell and Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Shelden Williams and Carlos Boozer.

I give the heavier weight to Shelden's three National Defensive Player of the Year awards, Carrawell's ACC Player Of The Year Award, and Gminski the tiny edge over a statistically superior Denton because of his three time All-American status to big Randy's once. All three were tough calls, and I respect the performances of all six players.

Another item must be addressed. The players are positioned by where they played at Duke. Example, Elton Brand played center during his career at Duke, so he is listed as a center. Where he plays in the NBA or what position he could play in college is irrelevant.

In addition, let's get one thing straight: Johnny Dawkins and Jay Williams, as great as they were, were not point guards.

Both tried to play the position as freshmen. However, after Tommy Amaker came on the scene and took over the point in Dawkins' sophomore season is when Johnny was able to move to his natural two guard position and excel to the best of his ability, leading to National Player of the Year honors. Likewise with Chris Duhon and Jay Williams in Jay's sophomore season.

For this reason, I force the players to compete at the position they played instead of trying to just load up all the best players and say, "They could have played that way." They didn't, and so we don't do use those phony lineups just for the sake of name recognition.

Finally, no one appreciates J.J. Redick more than I do. However, despite his accomplishments, including National Player of the Year and All-Time scorer at Duke, these do not outweigh the multiple National Player of the Year Awards of Jay Williams and the collective National Player of the Year and National Defensive Player of the Year awards of Shane Battier when ranking the two best players of the 21st century.