Duke has had some wonderful players over the years who dazzled one and all. Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Brandon Ingram, Marvin Bagley, Zion Williamson and Paolo Banchero come to mind.
But there have also been a number of players who were...different. More charismatic than most people.
Let’s take a look at a few of those.
- Art Heyman. In the annals of Dukedom, no one is a larger-than-life figure in quite the same way. Heyman was a brilliant talent but a free spirit and a hedonist. If he were alive and in school today, we wonder if he might be diagnosed with ADHD or something along those lines because he always seemed to seek out stimulation and his attention span may not have been the best. King Arthur was the greatest bon vivant in Duke history.
- Steve Vandenberg. Another Bubas-era player, Vandenberg idolized Jerry Lee Lewis - and had chops like his as well. He could do the whole act, right down to using his shoes on the keyboard. We understand that he used to play the Mustang Club occasionally, not something that your average Duke student did in the 1960’s.
- Mark Crow. Another guy who liked to party, Crow was an average player who liked to have fun. He used to prepare for his foul shots by dribbling with one hand and palming it when it bounced back up. His greatest contribution to Duke may have been making a huge impression on Kenny Dennard, who ultimately chose Duke over Wake Forest and a few others schools, at least partly because of the impression that Crow made.
- Kenny Dennard. The only player in Duke history, ACC history and possibly the history of college basketball to pose nude for a centerfold, with only a basketball strategically placed.
- Gene Banks. Banks was nearly in Heyman’s class as a charismatic bon vivant. In his final game in Cameron, he threw roses to the Crazies and then hit the shot that put the Carolina game into overtime, where Duke won. No one had ever lit Cameron up the way that Banks did.
- Billy King. A defensive savant, King could guard anyone on the court and shut them down - but he could barely hit a layup. As amazing as it was to watch him throttle great players, he struggled with anything more than a dunk. We saw him take over a media day in a way that was impossible to describe.
- Chris Carrawell. Carrawell is one of the most authentic people ever to come through Duke, and we don’t mean just basketball wise. He’s compulsively candid and funny as hell. He’s also impossible not to like.
- Shane Battier. The ultimate Blue Devil in many ways. There are so many great stories about Battier it’s hard to limit them. The time he watched a documentary on Shaolin monks and will - and then went out and lit a team up from three point range. This was when no one thought he could shoot. But our favorite Battier story was this: Duke had been in first place in the ACC for almost his entire career. When Duke fell out briefly, then got first place back, someone asked Battier how it felt: “normal.” And said with a sly smile.
- Jason Williams. A stunning talent, the truth about Williams is that he’s a bit of a nerd. Which, at Duke, isn’t a bad thing to be.
- Dahntay Jones. A close friend of J-Will’s, Jones pushed the bad boy thing at Duke as much as anyone since Laettner. Virginia fans are probably still mad about the pushups he did after dunking over half the team.