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YouTube Gold: Tommy Burleson

One of the best big men, and most decent people, to pass through the ACC

NCAA Photos Archive
Tommy Burleson cutting down the nets

One of the greatest ACC images of all time was when State had 5-5 Monte Towe dribble between the legs of 7-2 Tommy Burleson for a program cover.

It underscored that the brilliant 1972-1974 State run unquestionably had a bit of a circus atmosphere.

Between Burleson, Towe and the stunning David Thompson, who did things that no one had seen in college basketball before, or at least not on national TV,

Burleson also had a surprisingly fiery side as he demonstrated with some classic matchups with Maryland and he more than held his own against UCLA’s great Bill Walton.

When you watch him, you’ll see a guy who is unbelievably fluid for his size. In his case, not being able to dunk - it was still illegal in college ball - may have worked to his advantage.

For all his remarkable accomplishments in basketball, Burleson remains haunted by the 1972 Olympics. The US lost to the Russians in a controversial gold medal game and the US team has never accepted the silver medals, believing they were robbed.

But far more devastating was the 1972 attack and ultimate murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists.

Burleson was held at gunpoint as the hostages passed through a parking lot and his life was also very much in the balance. To see him talk about it and completely break down, even four decades later, is to realize what a scarring event it must have been for a country kid from Avery County.