To celebrate SLAM’s 30th anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential men’s college teams from our past 30 years. Stats, records and chips aren’t the main factor here, it’s all about their contribution to the game’s cultural fabric.

For the next 30 days—Monday through Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full list here. We’ve also got an exclusive retro collegiate collection, out now, that pays homage to each squad’s threads. Shop here.

Former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski once said, “Two are better than one if two act as one.” And he is right, especially when talking about the ‘99 Blue Devils’ stars Elton Brand and Trajan Langdon. 

Led by the size and athleticism of Brand and the finesse and flair of Langdon, Duke’s squad established itself as one of the most unstoppable forces in college basketball history, a true embodiment of the Blue Devils’ perennial preeminence. They were rock stars of the college basketball scene. Everyone wanted to be like them, but no one really was. Brand bulldozed his way through defenses, earning accolades and admiration with his sheer dominance on the court. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, earning him the Naismith National Player of the Year award as a sophomore. 

While the brawn of Brand was inside the paint, the artistry of Langdon was outside the arc. The senior guard, nicknamed the “Alaskan Assassin,” was Duke’s lethal scoring weapon. While his size and athleticism helped him find success attacking the paint, some of his best moments came from long-range. At any instant, Langdon would rise over defenders with the flick of his wrist, signaling an automatic three points.

The three-time All-ACC guard logged 17.3 points and knocked down the three ball at an efficient 44.1 percent clip. His best games always came when it mattered most, whether it’d be his 24 points against Missouri State or his 25-point explosion in the national championship game. 

For every scorer—or, in this case, for every two scorers—there must be a floor general who can distribute the ball for things to work. Luckily for Duke, and to everyone else’s misfortune, the Blue Devils had William Avery running the show. 

Avery was a Swiss Army knife kind of player. He consistently splashed jump shots from any place on the floor, threw dimes left and right and even sneaked up on opponents for run-ending steals. Meanwhile, sophomore Shane Battier stifled opponents on the wing as one of the best defenders in the ACC, while his spot-up shooting would deflate opposing arenas with quickness. 

Defense was their backbone, fundamentals were their gospel and team-play was their anthem. Under Coach K, the distinct personalities of the players would gel into a singular unit destined to destroy teams on the hardwood. Combining the collective brilliance of the nation’s top college players and a world-class coaching staff—not to mention the unwavering support from the craziest fans in college basketball—the Blue Devils tore through their campaign with a jaw-dropping 37-2 record. 

Duke’s only regular season losses came against Cincinnati in November when they fell just two points shy against the Bearcats. But the Blue Devils bounced back tremendously, reeling off 32 straight wins up to their matchup against Connecticut in the NCAA tournament final. Though the loss still stings today for the Cameron Crazies, the sheer greatness of that ‘99 team will forever be etched into their memory.

Photos via Getty Images.


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