The Duke Blue Devils always seem to have at least one super annoying guy playing for them every year that the rest of the world just cannot stand. The guy always fits into one of two distinct archetypes. There is the gawky seven foot white guy. Usually generically preppy looking, can sometimes hit threes, and always has some annoying bro haircut. Think Christian Laettner. Then there is the scrappy, gritty wing. Usually a point guard, also can get hot from deep, and is always diving for balls and taking charges like his life depends on it. Which it does. Think Bobby Hurley or the latest incarnation of this archetype, Grayson Allen. Read on as we explore the lineage of these two Duke archetypes, from the earliest beta versions, to the classic apex examples of the type, to the long line of updated versions of each. So read on and get the definitive lineage of Duke’s 8 most hated big men and 7 guards who deserve admiration.
15 Mason Plumlee (and Miles and Marshall)
We start with the very latest examples of the big man type, the Plumlee Brothers. Now using all three separate entries, Marshall, Mason, and Miles, would be cheating, so we will just use one since they are all so similar. The best Plumlee from Duke and in the NBA is Mason Plumlee. He is the middle Plumlee who currently plays for the Denver Nuggets. While he was in Durham, Mason was named first team All-ACC in 2013, second team All-American the same year, and was a member of the 2010 national championship team. Through four seasons in the NBA he has averaged nine points and 6.5 rebounds per game. At 6 feet 11 inches, he looked the lumbering big man part of the description, although unlike a lot of Duke big men he never ventured outside, hitting just two three-pointers during his time at Duke.
14 Grayson Allen
The latest version of the scrappy little guy is of course the current Duke guard who has a tendency to trip folks, Grayson Allen. Allen is one of the best examples of the annoying guard that has played at Duke in years. He already has an NCAA championship from 2106 in addition to being named first team All-ACC as well as second team All-American, so the talent level is there. He is a great scorer, always diving for balls, and of course he has one of the best bro-haircuts since Christian Laettner himself. With his tripping incidents, Allen adds the element of being a slightly dirty player which certainly ups the hateability and enhances the overall package. The only thing that is missing to make him the perfect example, is for him to become a major draft bust, so we will see what happens with that over the next few years.
13 Mike Gminski
One of the very first gawky white big man types to make his mark at Duke was Mike Gmisnki who starred for the Blue Devils in the late 1970s. Gminski was one of the first great Blue Devils, earning All-America honors in 1979 and 1980. When he graduated he held the Duke career records for most points, rebounds, and blocked shots. Gminski made his way to the NBA in 1980 when he was drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the seventh overall pick in the draft. He managed to carve out a 14 year career with four different teams averaging over ten points and almost seven rebounds per game. Gminski came before the gawky big men we know best, but he fit into the tradition with his size and talent and he did have some questionable hair like the rest of them too.
12 Chip Engelland
One of the prototypes of the Duke guard was Chip Engelland who was, and remains renowned for his shooting acumen. As a four year player at Duke, he came off the bench as a freshman and sophomore and started most of his junior and senior seasons, averaging around 13 points per game in his final two years while shooting over 50% from three as a senior. He never made it to the NBA but spent a few years in the CBA and internationally. Nowadays he is known as the best shot doctor in the game. He started off as a shooting advisor, coaching players how to fix their mechanics and improve their shots, and now is an assistant coach in San Antonio where he has helped Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard develop into great shooters for the Spurs.
11 Josh McRoberts
One of the gawky white big men who folks often forget went to Duke is Josh McRoberts, who played for two years with the Blue Devils. He had a decent freshman year averaging over eight points and over five rebounds per game. He decided to return for his sophomore year and upped his numbers to 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as he earned second team All-ACC honors. He was also named to the ACC All-Defensive team behind his 2.5 blocks per game. In the 2007 NBA Draft McRoberts was taken by the Portland Trailblazers with the 37th overall pick. He has managed to stick around in the league for a decade, bouncing between six different teams. Despite his longevity, he, like many Duke big men before him, has not exactly been the most productive NBA player, averaging 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game through his career.
10 Tommy Amaker
One of coach Mike Krzyzewski first great players at Duke was Tommy Amaker, an undersized guard who lead Duke to the NCAA tournament four times including trips to two Final Fours and a loss in the national championship game in 1986. Amaker was known as a great shooter and led the team in three point shooting during his senior year which was the first year that the NCAA had instituted the three point shot. He was also known as an intense and irritating defender as he set the Duke all time career record in steals which stood until Shane Battier broke it in 2001. Amaker was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in the third round of the 1987 NBA Draft but did not make the team. He had a chance to play in the CBA but decided to return to school and ended up in coaching, first as an assistant to Coach K at Duke and eventually as the head coach at Harvard where he has been for a decade.
9 Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly played four years at Duke University, starting off on the bench behind Kyle Singler as a freshman where he was part of the 2010 national championship team. His role expanded each year at Duke as he became one of the key big men in his final two years, averaging almost 13 points per game as a senior. Upon graduation Kelly was selected in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 48th overall pick in the second round. He had his best year as a rookie, averaging eight points and almost four rebounds per game. Since then however his production and playing time has slipped. After three years in LA he signed with the Hawks and bounced between the NBA and the D-League throughout the season.
8 Bobby Hurley
A New Jersey high school legend turned two-time NCAA champion, and the guy who all the young Duke guard recruits aspire to become, Bobby Hurley went to three straight Final Fours during his four years at Duke, bugging the heck out of opposing fans everywhere as he scrambled all over the floor for loose balls. Hurley was a freshman when he helped them make the national championship game in 1990 where they got stomped by UNLV. The following year Hurley and the Blue Devils got their revenge, beating the Runnin Rebels in the Final Four before winning the national championship. They added another one in 1992. After earning All-American honors as a senior in 1993 and setting the NCAA all-time assists record, he was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. He washed out after five years in the NBA, averaging just under four points and just over three assists per game. Hurley of course went into coaching, leading the University of Buffalo to the NCAA tournament in 2015 and he is now the head coach for Arizona State.
7 Mark Alarie
In the long line of gawky white big men for the Duke Blue Devils, Mark Alarie came just before the two most iconic versions of the type. Alarie played from 1982 to 1986 just as the Blue Devils were really beginning to rise to prominence under Coach K. As a freshman, Alarie was part of an 11 win Duke team that finished seventh in the ACC, by the time he was a senior, they had reached the national championship game. Over his four year career at Duke, Alarie scored just over 16 points and grabbed just over six rebounds per game, earning first team All-ACC honors twice, and third team All-America honors as a senior. In the 1986 NBA Draft the Denver Nuggets grabbed Alarie with the 18th overall pick. He played one year in Denver before he was traded to the Washington Bullets where he played for four more years until injury issues forced him out of the league and into the world of high fiance.
6 Trajan Langdon
The first big time recruit to come out of the state of Alaska, Trajan Langdon arrived at Duke with high expectations as a replacement for the recently graduated Bobby Hurley. Langdon immediately made an impression, averaging over 11 points off the bench while shooting over 42% from three. Over his four years he set the school record for most three pointers made. He was named second team All-American as a junior and senior, and led the Blue Devils to the national championship game in 1999. Langdon was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played three years in the NBA before he embarked on an international career. He now works in the front office for the Brooklyn Nets.
5 Danny Ferry
One of the very best Duke Blue Devils of all time, and the original iconic version of the hateable white Duke big man was Danny Ferry. He helped lead the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances while being named the ACC Player of the Year twice, earning consensus first team All-America honors as a senior, and winning the Naismith College Player of the Year award as well as two other player of the year awards as a senior. He is in the top ten all time in points, rebounds, and assists for the Blue Devils. In the 1989 NBA Draft Ferry was chosen by the Los Angeles Clippers with the second overall pick. He refused to play for the Clippers and went overseas to Italy for a season before returning to play for the Cavaliers. He spent 13 years in the NBA averaging seven points and just 2.8 rebounds per game. He did manage to win an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. After his career he moved into management with jobs as the GM for the Cavaliers and Hawks. He is now a special advisor to the Pelicans.
4 Shane Battier
One guy who retained his Duke-given ability to be hated, even throughout his NBA career, was Shane Battier. Although he was a small forward, his playing style fit into the tradition of the rest of the great Duke guards that everyone can’t stand. For one, he was an outstanding defender and was renowned for taking countless charges over his career. He shot the three-ball at a rate of 41% during his time at Duke and claimed all the major player of the year awards as a senior, while leading the Blue Devils to the 2001 national championship. Battier was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Grizzlies and remained with them for five years. He spent five more years in Houston before making a pit stop back in Memphis before he went to the Miami Heat in 2011. Battier reprised his role as a bad guy with the Heat, helping them win two NBA titles as he nailed threes and took tough charges just like the good old days at Duke.
3 Cherokee Parks
Following in the footsteps of Duke legend Christian Laettner, Cherokee Parks proved that the sequel is usually not as good as the original. He certainly had the frat boy look and the punk attitude of Laettner, but he was not quite as successful, which I suppose is understandable as he was following after the best player in school history. Parks did manage to play in one more Final Four after being a part of Laettner’s championship team as a freshman. The Blue Devils lost in the championship game to Arkansas in his senior season. Parks was chosen by the Dallas Mavericks with the 12th overall selection in the 1995 NBA Draft. After his rookie year in Dallas, he played for six other teams in nine seasons and finished his career averaging over four points and just under four rebounds per game.
2 J.J. Reddick
One of the second most hated Duke Blue Devils was one of their best guards ever, J.J. Reddick. He burst on the scene as a freshman averaging 15 points per game and by his junior and senior year he averaged over 20 and over 25 points respectively. Reddick was a dead eye shooter, hitting 91% of his free throws during his career which was second all time in the NCAA at the time. He also nailed over 40% of his three point shots at Duke while setting an NCAA all time record for most made threes in the NCAA with 457. Reddick was a two time ACC Player of the Year, a two time consensus first team All-American, and won the Adolph Rupp Trophy twice as well. In the 2006 NBA Draft Reddick was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 11th overall pick. He is in his 11th season in the NBA, with his best years coming most recently with the Los Angeles Clippers where he has averaged almost 16 points per game and hit over 44% of his three pointers.
1 Christian Laettner
The ultimate, apex, iconic version of the hateable Duke big man, who was even voted the most hated college basketball player of all time 20 years after he graduated, is of course none other than Christian Laettner. Arriving at Duke during Danny Ferry’s senior year, Laettner grabbed the torch from him and took it to an unforeseen level. Laettner was a little more of a pretty boy, a little more of a punk, and was even a little better player, which meant opponents and their fans hated him a lot more. Laettner spent four years at Duke leading them to four Final Fours and winning two national championships, not to mention hitting the most iconic game winning shot in NCAA history. After being named consensus first team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and Naismith College Player of the Year in 1992 Laettner was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the third overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. He spent 13 years in the league, played on the 1992 gold medal winning Dream Team, and was named an All-Star in 1997.
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