Jordan Brand keeps signing Duke guys because North Carolina can’t produce worthy candidates

The Magic’s Paolo Banchero is the latest Duke alum to sign with Nike’s Jordan brand.

The Magic’s Paolo Banchero is the latest Duke alum to sign with Nike’s Jordan brand.
Image: Getty Images

Rivalries are all about tradition — and being petty.

North Carolina fans are still celebrating that they defeated Coach K in his final home game, and his last game, after beating Duke in the Final Four. Blue Devils fans are trying to get over a pain that will never subside. However, small wins are still victories.

No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero has joined former Dukies Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson as members of Nike’s Jordan Brand because there’s no one from North Carolina for Michael Jordan to sign.

“Them saying, ‘Regardless of how much money they’re paying you, they’re always going to take care of you,” Banchero said about the advice that Tatum and Williamson shared with him. “Anything you need, whether it’s on the court or off the court, they’re going to try their best to make it happen for you and look out for you,” he recalled. “That right there was one of the big reasons why I decided to come.”

“When Jordan stepped in, that really kind of made me raise my eyebrows,” Banchero added. “They don’t try and sign everybody.”

It has to suck for Jordan to see three Duke players — along with Luka Dončić — be the new faces of his company and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Republicans buy shoes too, and so do Duke alums. Wait, I take that back, given that they’re the same thing.

Vince Carter — who was drafted four years before Banchero was born — is the last Carolina alum to have a major shoe deal. He’s also the last NBA All-Star that UNC’s program has produced. His last appearance came in 2007 when Banchero was 4, Williamson was 6, and Tatum was 8.

This is where things get weird. Since 2005, North Carolina has won three national championships and made it to six Final Fours. You would think with that type of success that they’d have a boatload of talent in the NBA, however, that just hasn’t been the case. The last time the program produced a top-2 pick in the NBA Draft was when Marvin Williams went No. 2 overall to the Atlanta Hawks in 2005. In that same time frame — since 2005 — Duke has won two national championships and only made three Final Fours. However, they’ve managed to produce six players that have been drafted either first or second overall during that span. This kind of thing shows up on NBA mock drafts when you see that Duke has multiple players expected to be taken in the first round of next summer’s draft, while North Carolina doesn’t have any from a squad that’s been ranked as the preseason No. 1 team.

Duke is a factory for producing pros. They have 25 former players in the NBA right now, and two of them are members of the Charlotte Hornets — the team Jordan owns. “Even though you’re a Dukie, I take pride in that we did draft you,” Jordan told Mark Williams after taking him 15th overall in last summer’s draft. For comparison’s sake, UNC has 11 players in the league while Kentucky leads the pack with 27.

On Wednesday night, Paolo Banchero will make his NBA regular season debut as his Orlando Magic take on the Pistons in Detroit. Between the two teams, there are four players on the roster that used to play on Tobacco Road. Three of them went to Duke.

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