The Cleveland Cavaliers made Duke guard Kyrie Irving the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night, and we’re all happy for him. But don’t be surprised if this doesn’t work out, Cavs fans, and it’s not just because you’re from Cleveland or we have no idea what Irving’s actual talent/stamina level is since he played about 10 college games.
It’s because highly touted Duke point guards in the NBA have become something like the Hope Diamond, surrounded by bizarre and unfortunate circumstances.
– During his rookie year, former Blue Devils point guard Bobby Hurley, the seventh overall pick in the 1993 draft, was involved in a near-fatal car crash near Arco Arena in Sacramento. He was not wearing his seat belt. He missed the rest of the year and went on to play five more seasons in the NBA. Before the accident, he averaged 7.1 points and 6.1 assists per game. He finished his career with an average of 3.8 points and 3.3 assists per game.
End of story: his basketball career was pretty much done for after that crash, although still being alive is probably a good consolation.
– In 2002, there was no question who the best player in college basketball was — Duke’s Jason Williams. The winner of the Naismith, Wooden, Robertson, Associated Press and Sporting News Awards for Player of the Year, Williams selected by the Bulls with the second pick behind Chinese big man Yao Ming. Williams promptly asked to be called Jay, so as to avoid confusion with fellow NBAers Jason Williams (White Chocolate) and Jayson Williams (the guy who shot his limo driver in the face).
Unfortunately, the legacy of Jay Williams would not be on the basketball court. The summer after his rookie year, Williams crashed his motorcycle into a light pole on Chicago’s North side. He was not wearing a helmet. He has never played another game due to the severity of the injuries — again, just being alive is the victory here.
These examples are not to suggest that Kyrie Irving is in imminent danger of some type of vehicular accident, but that Hurley and Williams played the same position as him at Duke and suffered these fates is certainly a weird coincidence. And not only were they Duke point guards, but like Irving they played their high school ball in New Jersey. (In case you need additional layers of weirdness, many draft experts are calling this the weakest field since…. 2002.)
All I can say is, Kyrie, make sure you wear your seatbelt or a helmet. Probably wouldn’t hurt to do both.
Just for fun, we decided to look up a few other Duke guards and how they fared in the NBA. Here are the rest of the Duke guards drafted in the first round over the past 20 years and their NBA career averages:
Trajan Langdon (No. 11 to Cleveland in 1999): 5.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game in three seasons.
William Avery (No. 14 to Minnesota in 1999): 2.7 points, 0.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game in three seasons.
Dahntay Jones (No. 20 to Boston in 2003, traded to Memphis): 6.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists per game in eight seasons.
J.J. Redick (No. 11 to Orlando in 2006): 7.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game in five seasons.
Gerald Henderson (No. 12 to Charlotte in 2009): 6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists per game in two seasons.