Before becoming an NBA All-Star and GM of the Sixers, Elton Brand was Naismith Player of the Year at Duke

CBS Sports is taking a look back at several of the defining college basketball players of the past and their Citizen Naismith Player of the Year seasons. This edition of the series, sponsored by Citizen, stars Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand — a former Duke icon.

Well before he was orchestrating NBA-altering moves as the general manager of the 76ers, and just before he was a 17-year vet in the NBA with five different organizations, Elton Brand was the face of the Duke Blue Devils basketball program.

Brand played just two seasons at Duke, 1997-98 and 1998-99, but boy did he ever make them count as his career culminated  with Naismith Player of the Year honors in 1998-1999 as a sophomore. He was an icon in the Duke world, in the basketball world — and in all of sports. After taking home the Naismith Trophy, Brand left school to become the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft in 1999; he had nothing more to prove after becoming the best player in college basketball.

At 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, Brand’s game was a mix of finesse and power; he was smooth as silk but strong as an ox. So, fittingly, he powered Duke in every way in 1998-99 — to its best record in program history, an ACC regular season and tournament title, and a postseason run that saw it advance to the NCAA title game, where the Blue Devils were upset by UConn. 

Though Duke fell one win short of cutting down the nets in the last game of the season, Brand and the Blue Devils were dominant. Their 37-2 overall record in his final season still stands as Coach K’s best record overall, and it sparked a run of dominance that led to a title two seasons later — then again nine seasons later … and five seasons after that.

Brand was a key cog in Coach K’s Hall of Fame run at Duke, and with the Naismith Trophy on his resume, he will forever be remembered as an iconic figure in the pantheon of Duke greats.

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