The Duke community is mourning the passing of basketball legend Art Heyman, who led the Blue Devils to its first Final Four berth in 1963. He died Monday in Florida at age 71. No cause of death has been released, but Duke basketball spokesman Mike Cragg indicated it was unexpected, calling it "sudden news."
"In fact, during the day yesterday there was a conversation on how to best recognize the 50th anniversary of Duke’s first Final Four team in 1963," Cragg said. "Art was the National and ACC Player of the Year of that special team in Duke history. That era of time and excellence is never far from our minds here at Duke."
From the Duke press release, here's a summation of Heyman's basketball career, as well as quotes from Coach K and others about his legacy.
Heyman, one of 13 players to have their jersey retired at Duke, was a three-time All-America selection while averaging 25.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils. During his three years in Durham, he led Duke to a 69-14 record, including a 35-7 mark in ACC play. He was also named to the All-ACC team and ACC All-Tournament team three times during his career. Heyman is one of three athletes in ACC history to have been unanimously selected to the All-ACC men's basketball team three times.
In 1962-63, Heyman earned NCAA Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP honors. As a senior, he averaged 24.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in leading Duke to a 27-3 record, an ACC Championship and the program’s first Final Four appearance. He also became the first player in ACC history to earn consensus National Player of the Year honors.
Heyman’s career 25.1 points per game ranks first in Duke’s career record books, while he is also tied for 12th in scoring with 1,984 points. He also ranks fourth at Duke in rebounds per game (10.9 rpg.) and 13th in total rebounds (865). Heyman is one of just three players in Duke history to average a double-double for three consecutive seasons.
Upon graduating from Duke, Heyman was the No. 1 overall selection by the New York Knicks in the 1963 NBA Draft. He went on to play eight seasons professionally in the NBA and ABA. He was named to the 1964 NBA All-Rookie team after averaging 15.4 points per game as a member of the Knicks. Heyman went on to win an ABA Championship with the Pittsburgh Pipers in 1968, averaging over 20.0 points per game for the year.
Heyman retired from basketball in 1970 with 4,030 points, 1,461 rebounds and 859 assists during his NBA and ABA career.
“As much as any other human being, Art was responsible for Duke University becoming a national power in college basketball. I always told him that he was a true pioneer in modern Duke basketball. His records and stats speak for themselves, but I don’t know that any words can do justice to the role that he played in the history of our teams in that era. I am sorry to hear of his death. Art and I were close in so many ways, and he will be missed. I was honored to be his coach.”
- former Duke head coach Vic Bubas.
"Art Heyman was a wonderful player, and an idol to many of us who were playing basketball in the 1960s. Obviously, he had a huge impact on Duke Basketball and was truly one of the elite players to ever wear a Blue Devil uniform. When I was fortunate to become the Duke head coach, my admiration for Art blossomed into a great friendship that lasted for more than 30 years. Art will be missed by all of us in the Duke Basketball family."
- Mike Krzyzewski
"Art was a warrior on the basketball court. He was relentless and his attitude on the court was infectious to his teammates. He only wanted to win, and wouldn’t settle for less. He put a lot of pressure on himself to be great, and he was. He was the best 6-5 offensive rebounder, other than Elgin Baylor, that I ever played with or against. Our relationship was built on the court because winning was very important to me too and we blended very well. Off the court, in many ways, we went our separate ways but we had a great relationship. He did his thing, and I did mine, but I have always considered Art a very loyal and dear friend."
- Jeff Mullins
"Art arrived here at 18 years of age and Duke was good. They were good, but had never won an ACC Championship and there wasn’t that national achievement. The irony of the recruiting of Art is at that time, when Vic Bubas came from State to Duke the real rivalry was Carolina and State. Frank McGuire vs. Edward Case, the two giants that founded the basketball tradition here. Art had committed to North Carolina, but when he changed his mind and came to Duke that was the start of sustained national achievement. He was a beast, he was a tough, tough New York kid and he was an insatiable competitor. He was the kind of player that brought out the best of his teammates and he was very unselfish. I will be forever grateful to him. We broke in together here and we had our trials especially with North Carolina with fights when he was a freshman and a sophomore. We’ve had some good ones over the years here at Duke through our era, and Mike Kryzewski’s era, guys like Art Heyman, who would just leave their body on the floor, whatever it took kind of players. Art ended up being the college player of the year and I think a player of that stature helps you to get other great players. It helped us sequentially in those early years, but you had to have a footprint there, and Art was that for our program."
- Bucky Waters