Tommy Loren Burleson (born February 24, 1952 in Crossnore, North Carolina) is an American and former collegiate and professional basketball player. A 7'2" center, Burleson played for North Carolina State University's 1974 NCAA National Championship team.
As a collegian, Burleson teamed with superstar David Thompson, guard Monte Towe and others to dethrone UCLA and win the 1974 NCAA Championship. Burleson was the MVP of the 1973 and 1974 ACC Tournaments and was All-Final Four in 1974. Burleson's defense of UCLA superstar Bill Walton was key to the Wolfpack's semifinal win. He was a member of the 1973 World University Games Gold Medal basketball team.
When Burleson was recruited he was officially measured at 7'2.5" tall. The athletic director at North Carolina State decided they would list him at 7'4". They said he would officially be the tallest player in American basketball and it would bring a lot of good exposure to him and the school.
Burleson was also a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team that lost an epic and controversial gold medal game to the Soviet Union. The entire 1972 Olympic Basketball team believed they had been cheated and voted unanimously to not accept the silver.
Burleson was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics as the third overall player taken in the 1974 NBA Draft, and was named to the 1974-75 All-Rookie team. Playing under coach Bill Russell, Burleson recorded strong playoff performances in both 1975 and 1976 for Seattle. For his playoff career, Burleson averaged over 20 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks per game. Burleson's best season as a professional was his second, when he averaged 15.6 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game. Just as Tommy began to dominate the NBA game, he was tragically injured when he was breaking up a fight between his teammate and a member of the oposing team. His knee was taken out and ended his career right then and there.
Burleson was known throughout his amateur and pro career as a good shot blocker. He played eight seasons in the NBA with three different teams (Seattle, Kansas City Kings and Atlanta Hawks). Burleson currently lives in Avery County, North Carolina. He is an avid supporter of North Carolina State Basketball. He now has three sons, Robert, David, and Quentin, and a wife, Denise.
In 2002 Burleson was named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary Men's Basketball Team.