Top 10 Best Duke Basketball Players

Top 10 Best Duke Basketball Players

In the world of men’s college basketball, there are plenty of programs with impressive histories, but there are a few that stand out amongst the rest. One of the most successful college basketball programs is the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has taken home the men’s basketball championship five times, made it to the championship 11 times, and the Final Four 16 times. In order to have all of this success, they have had to have some great players over the years. Below, the ten greatest Blue Devils of all-time are ranked and discussed.

Who Are the Best Duke College Basketball Players of All Time?

  1. Christian Laettner
  2. Johnny Dawkins
  3. Art Heyman
  4. J.J. Redick
  5. Grant Hill
  6. Dick Groat
  7. Bobby Hurley
  8. Shane Battier
  9. Jason Williams
  10. Danny Ferry

1. Christian Laettner

  • Third-most points in school history (2,460)
  • Third-most rebounds in school history (1,149)
  • Four Final Four appearances in four years

One of the greatest college basketball players of all-time, Christian Laettner deserves the number one spot in the history of Duke men’s basketball. As for his statistics, Laettner ranks third all-time for Duke in points (2,460) and rebounds (1,149), as well as first in free throws made (713) and fifth in blocked shots (145). Perhaps even more impressive than his individual numbers are his team results at Duke. As the team's best player and team leader for most if not all of his time at Duke, he led Duke to the Final Four during all four of his years at the school and won the National Championship in 1991 and 1992. Laettner is the only player in men’s college basketball history to start a Final Four game during all four of his years in school. 

2. Johnny Dawkins

  • First all-time at Duke in field goals made (1,026)
  • Second all-time at Duke in points scored (2,556)
  • Sixth all-time at Duke in assists (555)

Known as the man who started it all for legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (a.k.a. Coach K), Johnny Dawkins comes in at number two on this list. Dawkins’ stats were certainly impressive during his time with the Blue Devils. He finished as Duke’s all-time leading scorer with 2,556 points. Dawkins also ranks first in field goals made (1,026) and attempted (2,019), in addition to being sixth in assists with 555. Dawkins biggest impact on Duke, however, was being the first great recruit for Coach K. Johnny led Duke to a 1986 title game appearance and set the stage for an outstanding run of success and consistency for Coach K and Duke over the next 30+ seasons.

3. Art Heyman

  • First all-time in points per game (25.1)
  • Fourth all-time in rebounds per game (10.9)
  • Fifth all-time in free throws made

One of the first great basketball players in Duke history, Art Heyman takes the number three spot on this list. Heyman’s totals would certainly be up there on Duke’s all-time, however he played during a time when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team, so he only has three years of stats as opposed to the four that most of the players on this list do.  When it comes to per game stats, however, Hyman is Duke’s all-time leader in points per game at 25.1 and fourth in rebounds per game at 10.9. He also managed to crack the top five in free throws made (558) and attempted (853) despite only playing three years. Heyman led Duke to the 1963 Final Four, however they lost to eventual champion Loyola Chicago. 

4. J.J. Redick

  • Duke’s all-time leading scorer with 2,769 points
  • Most three pointers made with 457
  • Third in 3-point percentage at 40.6%

The man with the most points in the history of Duke basketball, J.J. Redick, ranks number four on this list. One of the best three point shooters in the history of college basketball, J.J. finished his Duke career with 2,769 points and 457 three pointers made, both the most in school history. Redick also ranks third in three point field goal percentage at 40.6%, so he was efficient at his shooting as well. Moreover, he ranks first all-time in career free throw percentage at 91.2%. Additionally, Redick was a part of the Blue Devils 2004 Final Four team and won the 2006 National Player of the Year Award.

5. Grant Hill

  • Sixth-most steals in program history
  • Ninth-most blocks in program history
  • Tenth-most field goals made in program history

Christian Laettner’s teammate for two seasons on the 1991 and 1992 championship teams, Grant Hill rounds out the top five players in Duke history. He also led Duke to the title game in 1994 without Laettner. Hill was an all-around talent and instrumental in the Blue Devils’ two championship runs. He is one of the greatest defenders in program history, currently ranking sixth all-time in program history with 218 steals and ninth all-time with 133 blocks. These stats helped him to win back-to-back National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 1993 and 1994. He also was an offensive talent, finishing in the top ten in Duke history in field goals made. 

6. Dick Groat

  • Second all-time in points per game at 23
  • Sixth-most field goals made at 1,669
  • Seventh-most free throws made with 522

Another one of the early legends for Duke men’s basketball, Dick Groat begins the second half of this list. As was the case with Heyman, Groat played during a time when freshmen were not eligible to play varsity college basketball, so some of his total stats do not rank up there with some of the other greats. He still managed to make the sixth-most field goals (1,669) and seventh-most free throws (522) in Duke history. His points per game ranks second all-time at exactly 23 points per game. Interestingly, despite his success on the basketball court, Groat is better known as a baseball player. He would go on to be an all-star in the MLB eight times, win two World Series titles, and the 1960 NL MVP.

7. Bobby Hurley

  • Most assists in Duke history with 1,076
  • Third-most minutes played (4,802)
  • Seventh-most three pointers made (264)

The third member of the Blue Devils’ 1991 and 1992 championship teams in the top seven is Bobby Hurley. Hurley was the ultimate floor general and distributor for the Duke teams of the early 90s, and he ended up ranking first all-time at Duke in both assists (1,076) and assists per game (7.7). Not only are those the most assists in Duke history, but they are the most assists of any player in college basketball history. Coach K rarely took Bobby out of the game during his time at Duke, and he wound up playing the third most minutes in program history with 4,802 minutes played. Hurley would end up winning the most outstanding player at the 1992 Final Four and was a first team All-American in 1993.

8. Shane Battier

  • Second-most steals in program history with 266
  • Second-most blocks in program history with 254
  • Fourth-most games played with 146

A similar player to Grant Hill as far as being all-around player, Shane Battier comes in at number eight on this list. Battier was instrumental in leading the Blue Devils to the 2001 NCAA title. His defensive numbers are off the charts, finishing second all-time at Duke in both steals with 266 and blocks with 254. He is also a favorite of the analytical Duke fans, picking up the most overall win shares (29.8) and second most defensive win shares (16.3) at Duke. Battier was also a key player from the moment he stepped on campus, and he wound up playing in 146 games during his time at Duke.

9. Jay Williams

  • Fourth-most assists in Duke history with 644
  • Third-most three pointers made at Duke with 313
  • Fifth-most steals at Duke with 235

A teammate of Battier’s on that 2001 championship team, Jay Williams takes the penultimate spot on this list. Williams was just as important in that championship run as Battier, and he wound up finishing his three seasons at Duke with the fourth-most assists (644), the third-most three pointers made (313), and the fifth most steals (235). He also had the highest steals per game average in Duke history at 2.2. Williams likely would have had a phenomenal NBA career had it not been for an unfortunate motorcycle accident that caused significant injuries to his legs, taking away some of his athleticism and greatly shortening his basketball career.

10. Danny Ferry

  • Sixth-most points scored at Duke with 2,155
  • Seventh-most rebounds with 1,003
  • Eighth-most assists with 506

Another member of that 1986 team that helped to elevate Coach K and Duke basketball, Danny Ferry claims the final spot on this list. Ferry was a freshman on that team that Johnny Dawkins led to the title game in 1986. Ferry would go on to have an outstanding career himself, scoring the sixth-most points (2,155), grabbing the seventh-most rebounds (1,003), and made the eighth-most assists (506) in the history of Duke basketball. Ferry is the only player in Duke history to rank in the top ten in all three of those categories. Although he never won a championship, he did help lead Duke to three Final Fours in his four years at the school.

Honorable Mentions

While they did not make the top ten, the ten players listed below still deserve some recognition as honorable mentions:

  • Mark Alarie
  • Grayson Allen
  • Jay Bilas
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Elton Brand
  • Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • Jon Scheyer
  • Kyle Singler
  • Nolan Smith
  • Sheldon Williams
  • Zion Williamson


Who is the best Duke men’s basketball player of all time?

While there have certainly been plenty of great players over the years at the school, the greatest Duke men’s basketball player of all-time is Christian Laettner. Laettner finished his Duke career with the third-most points in Duke history with 2,460 and third-most rebounds in Duke history with 1,149. Additionally, he is the only player in NCAA history to start a Final Four game during all four of his years at school.