Mike Krzyzewski has spent over four decades as the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils. He will coach his last regular-season game with the team against North Carolina Saturday night.
From 1980 to 2022, Coach K led the team to 1,196 victories, five of them being NCAA Championships. He was offered employment from NBA teams at least five times throughout his head coaching career with the Blue Devils, turning down every single offer.
Despite his dedication to Duke over the NBA, Krzyzewski ended up with deep ties to the professional basketball league. Many of his players di lui ended up being some of the best players in the NBA. Here is the ranked list of the top three active NBA players to play for Coach K.
Top 3 active NBA players to ever play for Coach K at Duke
3. Zion Williamson – New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson is one of the most recent NBA stars to come out of Duke and the reign of Coach K. The 6’6 ″ power forward spent his freshman year (2018-2019) with the Blue Devils before being selected first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019 NBA Draft.
In 33 games, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 2.1 assists and 8.9 rebounds. He earned numerous awards with the Blue Devils, including ACC Athlete of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Rookie of the Year, and ACC Tournament MVP.
The power forward has yet to make his 2021 season debut, but averaged 27 points, 3.7 assists, and 7.2 rebounds in the 2020 regular season. He earned the 2020 NBA All-Rookie First Team honor and the 2021 NBA All-Star honor.
2. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum only played for Coach K and the Blue Devils for a short time, but he has a lot to show for it. The Boston Celtics star played under Krzyzewski his freshman year in 2016.
During his time at Duke, Tatum earned the honors of third-team All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman team. In 29 games and 27 starts with the Blue Devils, Tatum averaged 16.8 points, 2.1 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game (stats per Sports Reference).
Tatum quickly became the top prospect and was selected by the Celtics first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. Now, the small forward averages 26 points, 4.2 assists, and 8.3 rebounds in his fourth year in the NBA. At 24-years-old, Tatum is a three-time NBA All-Star. He was also on the 2020 All-NBA Third Team and 2018 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
1. Kyrie Irving – Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving spent a very short period under Coach Krzyzewski. He spent his freshman year (2010-2011) there until he decided to take his talents to the NBA. However, Irving only played in eight full games for the Blue Devils.
He averaged 17.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.8 rebounds in those eight games, before suffering a ligament injury in his toe. The point guard returned on March 17 of 2011 to rejoin his team for the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
Irving has earned many accolades through his 10 years in the NBA. He is a seven-time NBA All-Star and was awarded the title of 2014 NBA All-Star Game MVP. In 2016 Irving became an NBA champion when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors.