Duke basketball needs its own Jordan
It is considered by many to be the greatest rivalry in all of sports. When the men’s basketball teams from Duke and the University of North Carolina meet, every sports fan is invested. Whether or not one of the participants is “their team” or not, they watch.
The reason these games garner national attention is, for the most part, they are always close and become classics.
Even in years where the teams were miss-matched, the outcome seems to come down to the closing seconds.
In their history, the rivals have met 251 times with UNC holding a 139-112 advantage over the Blue Devils. The Tarheels are also the owners of the longest winning streak in the series with 16 wins in a row from 1921-1928. Duke managed to win the most recent face-off in the ACC tournament semi-final by the final of 74-73.
While the competition between the teams is consistently close, comparing each school’s best player is a runaway win for the Heels.
There is no doubt that the best player to come from Chapel Hill is Michael Jordan. Joining the team for the 1981-82 season, Jordan made an immediate impact on UNC history. He won the ACC Freshman of the Year award and made the game winning shot against Georgetown to clinch a national championship for UNC. Before leaving the Tarheels for the NBA, Jordan went on to be an All-American in ‘83. He repeated that honor in ‘84 as well as being named the Player of the Year.
Jordan’s star only shined brighter when he became a professional. In his time in the NBA he managed to win six championships, six MVP awards, six finals MVP awards, 10 scoring titles, 14 all-star game appearances and is fifth on the all-time scoring list. Jordan’s legacy lives on as every young player who breaks free from the pack is immediately compared to M.J.
While Jordan is clearly UNC’s all-time greatest, the waters are muddied on the Duke side. Players like J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, Shane Battier and Bobby Hurley all had their moment in the sun, but failed to reach stardom levels even close to Jordan. Although opinions differ, most can agree that Grant Hill was the most successful Duke alumnus.
Hill first put on the Blue Devils’ uniform in 1991. From ‘91-94 he averaged 15 points per game, was a two-time All-American, named the ‘93 Defensive Player of the Year and won received the 1994 ACC Player of the Year award. Along with his individual accomplishments, Hill also led Duke to two national championships.
After making the transition to the NBA, Hill looked to be following in Jordan’s footsteps with early career success. In 1995 he was named co-Rookie of the Year and was the first rookie to be voted into the all-star game by fans.
Hill went on to play is six more all-star games but injuries plagued him in the second half of his career. He retired without ever winning a NBA title.
Duke’s quest of having a player on Jordan’s level might begin this season. Zion Williamson spent only one year playing for the Blue Devils, but it was a year in the spotlight. Williamson ended his college career with 22.6 points per game, almost nine rebounds per game and had a field goal percentage of 68 percent. He will go from a freshman in college to a star rookie in the NBA when the New Orleans Pelicans take the court this fall.
Time will tell if Williamson or some other Blue Devil can dominate the game. Until then, no matter how the rivalry games go, Tarheel fans can always say, “Yeah, but we have Jordan.”