Duke Basketball has had so many great players over the years that it’s impossible to really narrow your favorites down to just a few. Long-time fans will tell you that Jeff Mullins used to wear out a pair of shoes per game. Others will point to Jim Spanarkel who outsmarted just about everyone in the ACC, or maybe how Gene Banks floated across the court.
In the Mike Krzyzewski era, it’s really just personal preference. Johnny Dawkins? Sure. Danny Ferry? No problem. Christian Laettner? Of course. Shane Battier? What Duke fan doesn’t love Battier?
All those guys were great and a bunch more besides. No one though ever had quite what Jason Williams had.
A curious mix of athletic arrogance and an earnest naiveté (this was demonstrated several times during his career, but perhaps never more than when he paused in Cameron to listen to Coach K only to find Steve Blake sneaking up and stealing the ball).
He also demonstrated this in his first weekend of competition when Duke lost twice in New York and he got on the bus with a smile.
But despite these occasional flashes of innocence, which were quickly corrected by teammates and coaches, Williams was irresistible.
We’ve never seen anyone with a better center of balance. Williams was like a coiled spring, always ready to explode.
Take the 2001 game against Tubby Smith’s Kentucky where he erupted for 38 points and hit 7-10 from three point range.
We’ve seen a lot of great players at Duke and some were arguably better. That’s for everyone to decide for themselves.
For our part, though, we’ve never seen anyone like Williams. He was a phenomenal talent and his occasional flashes of naiveté were more than compensated for by his stunning abilities. He was wondrous.