There are few players in the history of NC State athletics as storied as Tommy Burleson: the seven-footer from Newland was part of the legendary 1973-74 Wolfpack basketball team that won the national championship, he was part of the 1972 Olympic basketball team that was cheated out of a gold medal in Munich, and he had an seven-year career in the NBA, where he represented himself and NC State with nothing but class.
Burleson was operating an electrical supply store and growing Christmas trees on his Uncle June’s farm in the early ’90s when his desire to help children in the community led him to run for county commissioner. He has proven so adept a public servant—overseeing school construction and a parks and recreation grant—that the state Republican party has courted him, so far in vain, to run for higher office. “Tommy’s just a good ol’ country boy at heart,” says his college coach, Norm Sloan, whose visits with Burleson prompted his own move to Newland 11 years ago. “He’s as humble as the day I recruited him.”
Burleson still farms and sell Christmas trees, and he’s operated a tree lot in Cary for several years, near the corner of Walnut and Kildaire Farm Roads. (link, Facebook account required) Now comes word that Burleson has earned a new kind of championship: he was an event winner at the World Series of Poker:
When Tommy Burleson and his son, David, decided to make the six-hour trek to the Horseshoe Southern Indiana Circuit from Newland, NC, they didn’t have much time. In fact, the final event in the series was the only one that they would be able to play. They made the most of it though, as the elder Burleson bested the 116 player field in the $365 No-Limit Hold ‘em event.
While David was knocked out of the event in the first 30 minutes of play, his father went on to end Day 1 fifth in chips at the final table. Today, play lasted just over three hours and Burleson was able to overcome a big lead of Nathan Burgess to earn his first Circuit ring.
Congratulations to Tommy.