After 42 long years, Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski has decided to call it a career at the end of the 2021-22 season. The legendary tactician has won five national titles, made 12 Final Four appearances, and won 15 ACC Tournament championships, elevating the Duke basketball program to one of the best in the country.
Coach K handled a ton of great players at Duke who helped him achieve those accolades, but not all of them were able to translate their success from the collegiate ranks to the pros. Not included on this list are Duke legends Jay Williams and Bobby Hurley, who were both involved in road accidents that greatly altered the trajectory of their professional careers.
With that said, let’s take a look at four of the biggest superstars who failed in the NBA after having successful careers at Duke under Coach K.
Duke failures in the NBA
4. Shelden Williams
Big man Shelden Williams had a decorated high school career, earning the Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year Award for two consecutive years. As a blue-chip prospect, he played for Duke from 2002 to 2006 and became one of the best big men in the country while playing alongside JJ Redick.
During his four-year stint, Williams established a handful of school records which he owns to this day. He is currently the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and rebounds. He also became a First-Team All-American in 2006 and was hailed as a two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
Williams was then selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. He never really lived up to the high expectations out of college and eventually bounced around the league as a journeyman before embarking overseas with stints in France and China. His playing career ended in 2015.
3. Jahlil Okafor
Another highly recruited talent out of high school, big man Jahlil Okafor completed an outstanding one-and-done season for Coach K in 2014-15. He averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 32 games played as a Blue Devil. The Arkansas native bagged a handful of awards during his lone season, including ACC Player of the Year, the Pete Newell Big Man Award, and a Consensus First-Team All-American selection.
Okafor was also at the forefront of the Duke squad which won a fifth national championship for Coach K in 2015. After an eventful freshman campaign, Okafor was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He had a productive rookie season, but his career eventually went downhill afterward, especially after Joel Embiid finally made his debut for the Sixers in 2016-17. Initially seen as part of The Process, the big man rapidly became an afterthought in the league not long after.
Okafor’s last stop in the league was with the Detroit Pistons in 2020-21 before taking his talents to China, where he is currently playing.
2. Jabari Parker
Hailing from Chicago, Jabari Parker made noise as a five-star recruit who won the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in 2012. He went on to play in Cameron Indoor Stadium for one season and generated 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 35 games played. Parker earned significant recognition, including a First-Team All-ACC selection, Consensus First-Team All-American honors, and the USBWA National Freshman of the Year Award.
Parker was then nabbed by the Milwaukee Bucks with the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Parker was having a solid rookie season until a torn ACL injury ended his campaign and dimmed his hopes of securing Rookie of the Year, which was won by Andrew Wiggins. Parker managed to average double digits in points for the next six seasons, but his level of play eventually diminished as the years went by, primarily due to injuries.
Parker last played for the Boston Celtics in the 2021-22 season, seeing action in 12 games before being cut by the team. He can still get back on track as he is only 26 years old, though he has undoubtedly been a major disappointment after his prolific season at Duke.
1. Danny Ferry
Duke legend Danny Ferry sits atop this unfortunate list as another guy who failed to live up to the hype of his collegiate career with the Blue Devils. He played a major role in helping the program make three Final Four appearances during his four-year stint in Durham from 1985-1989.
In his final season, Ferry recorded 22.6 points, 4.7 assists, and 7.4 rebounds in 35 games played for Coach K. He was a two-time ACC Player of the Year, Naismith College Player of the Year, and a Consensus First-Team All-American in 1989.
Much was expected from him after a successful amateur career, and he was picked second overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1989 NBA Draft. However, he opted not to play for the franchise and decided to head to Italy for a season before coming back to the league.
In 1989, Ferry’s rights were then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he was signed to a 10-year, $34 million contract since the franchise believed in his capabilities to be a star in the league. The forward tallied a career-high 13.3 points per game in the 1995-96 season but only had one other season in which he averaged double digits in points in the NBA.
Ferry joined the San Antonio Spurs in 2000 and came off the bench before closing his career with an NBA championship in the 2002-03 season. While Ferry had a lengthy career, it certainly did not even come close to living up to expectations after he dominated at Duke.