Paolo Banchero makes history as Duke’s fifth No. 1 draft pick


Paolo Banchero etched his name in NBA history Thursday night when he became the fifth Duke Blue Devil selected first overall in the draft.

Duke had the most No. 1 picks of any school in the country entering the night and added to it with Banchero going to the Orlando Magic.

Banchero is coming off a stellar freshman season in Durham where he was named the 2021-22 ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC All-Freshman Team, All-ACC First Team, All-ACC Tournament First Team, ACC Leader in points scored (671) and field goals (245) and NCAA Second Team All-America.

Before Banchero, Duke saw Zion Williamson (2019), Kyrie Irving (2011), Elton Brand (1999) and Art Heyman (1963) all taken in the top spot. 

Zion Williamson

Drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019, Zion Williamson established himself as the best collegiate basketball player in 2018-19. He was named the 2018-19 Naismith Award Winner, the AP Player of the Year, ACC All-Defense, All-ACC, First Team All-American and the ACC Tournament MVP.

He didn’t slow down once he hit the NBA hardwood either. In his first NBA game, he scored 17 consecutive points in just over three minutes of game time in the fourth quarter. Williamson scored at least 20 points in four straight games, the longest streak by any rookie of the season. He also tied the longest streak in the Pelicans franchise history, scoring at least 20 points in six of his first eight games.

Williamson averaged over 25 points per game and became the first teenager in NBA history to score at least 20 points in 10 consecutive games. By the end of his rookie season, he was named to the 2021 NBA All-Star and All-NBA Rookie First Team.

Kyrie Irving

When Kyrie Irving was drafted in 2011, it seemed like an anomaly to the average NBA fan, but Cleveland knew the type of player he was.

Irving only played in nine regular-season games at Duke before injuring toe and didn’t play again until the postseason where Duke fell in Sweet 16 to Arizona. Irving scored 28 points that game which proved to be his final one for the Blue Devils.

Irving has become a bona fide superstar in the NBA. He was named the 2011-12 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2014 All-Star Game MVP, three-time All-NBA and seven-time NBA All-Star. In 2016, he hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the NBA Championship to lift the Cavaliers over Golden State with under a minute to play.

Elton Brand

The Chicago Bulls selected Elton Brand in 1999 after a two-year career at Duke. His sophomore season was his best, by far, when he was named First-team All- ACC, ACC Player of the Year, First Team All-American and 1999 ACC Tournament MVP.

His 17-year playing career in the NBA was highlighted by 1999-2000 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year honors with Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets, he was a two-time All-Star and 2005-06 All-NBA 2nd Team.

Art Heyman

The first Blue Devil drafted first overall was Art Heyman. The New York Knicks selected the 6-foot-5 scorer after he led Duke to its first Final Four in 1963.

Some say Heyman is responsible for Duke becoming a basketball powerhouse. He was named second-team All-American in 1961-62, first-team All-American in 1962-63, All-ACC in each year of his career at Duke, 1963 ACC Tournament MVP and 1963 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

His NBA career didn’t last long. In 1967, Heyman moved on to the American Basketball Association and helped the Pittsburgh Pipers to the league’s first championship in 1968.

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