DT Lifted ACC Sky High

What else did you think that NC State fans had to discuss the week of the 2008 ACC Tournament? The early 1970s, of course!

All sarcasm aside, the Charlotte Observer‘s Ron Green ran a great piece today calling David Thompson “The Best Ever” in the best basketball league in America. Green’s piece can be read by clicking here.

He was the best who ever soared in that league of eagles. You could argue for Michael Jordan and you might be right, but they played under different rules, in different programs, at different times. Jordan’s impact on the game came primarily as a professional. Thompson was a star in pro ball for a while, before he lost his way and abused his body and mind, but it was as a collegian that he made his enormous impact on the game. He was 6-foot-4, but he could touch the top of the backboard from a standing start. Without benefit of the dunk, which was against the rules, or the 3-point shot, which hadn’t been created, he had a 25.8 career scoring average.

In the foreword to Thompson’s book, “Skywalker,” former UCLA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, a 7-footer who once had his shot blocked by Thompson, proclaimed him “the single greatest college player I ever played against.”

Thompson was All-American three times, national player of the year twice, and his teams won all but nine of their games over three years — all but one over a two-season span — and won an NCAA title.

Cedric Maxwell, the former Charlotte 49ers All-American, said of that time, “In North Carolina, there was God and then there was David Thompson.”

Another reason why we ran this piece today is because we had an entry that we completed back on Super Bowl Sunday and failed to post to the site. Green’s article today dovetailed nicely with the piece that follows but that we had failed to post to the site:

‘Greatness Emerged on Super Sunday’

Often, the reality doesn’t match the hype. This wasn’t the case that day, as two highly-talented college basketball teams spent the afternoon displaying jaw-dropping athleticism and skills in runs that would have buried lesser teams.The first of six remarkable clashes between the teams over the 1973 and 1974 seasons, culminating with a classic ACC Tournament finals in ‘74, aired as an hors d’oeuvre to Super Bowl VII. All but one game in that Maryland-N.C. State series was decided by six or fewer points; the Wolfpack won every time, none more dramatically than that first meeting.

DTvsMD It is Super Bowl Sunday, which means that Wolfpack fans of all ages are required to be reminded of the legendary NC State-Maryland match-ups of the early 1970s. In light of TWO great articles on the topic that have been published recently we thought it was a great time to share this entry so that we can save it for the future.

This piece from TheACC.com details how the game came to fruition and highlights the historical significance of those early State-Maryland games to the both the ACC and all of college basketball. Isn’t that crazy? I bet if you are younger than 35 – or you work in the national media – you probably thought that only Carolina and Duke could play in a meaningful game. But, the State-Maryland game was the FIRST nationally televised Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball game in history. Boy, did they pick a good one.

Barry Jacobs piece on WRAL’s blog is a little shorter but focuses more exculsively on the Wolfpack and, of course, David Thompson.

(David) Thompson, a 6-4 wing, scored 37 points against the Terps at a time when there was no shot clock to force action, no 3-point line to reward his long jumpers, and no dunk to facilitate his breathtaking above-the-rim play. “He was spectacular without those things,” Towe said. “This was the beginning of the Maryland-has-no-answer-for-David Thompson series.”

The score was tied at 85-all when, with 12 seconds remaining, Burleson missed a forced jumper over Elmore. The ball bounced high off the rim, and suddenly, floating toward the basket, here came Thompson.

“It’s almost like a Jordan commercial, where everything starts to go in slow motion,” recalled Elmore, referring of course to UNC’s Michael Jordan, who grew up idolizing the Wolfpack star. “You see Thompson rising up…”

And up, and up, until he grabbed the rebound of Burleson’s miss and guided it into the basket, scoring the winning points as the buzzer sounded.

A pair of teams permeated with comparable talent would be quite rare in today’s world of quick exits to the NBA. “There was a huge buildup to the game because obviously Maryland was very good and we were very good,” said Towe, a superlative, 5-7 playmaker.

N.C. State and Maryland boasted five eventual first-round pro draft picks between them – the Wolfpack’s Tom Burleson and David Thompson and the Terrapins’ Len Elmore, John Lucas, and Tom McMillen. Thompson and Lucas were the No. 1 selections in 1975 and 1976, respectively. Terps Jim O’Brien, Tom Roy, and Mo Howard were eventually second- and third-round selections.

N.C. State posted a 57-1 record, the best two-year burst in ACC history. The Pack was 27-0 in 1973, but on probation and ineligible for postseason play. Norm Sloan’s squad won the national championship the following season, dethroning seemingly invincible UCLA in the process.

As for Thompson, look toward the ceiling of Raleigh’s RBC Center. N.C. State has honored a number of jerseys, but retired only one. Number 44 belonged to Thompson, who began to establish himself as the greatest ACC player of all time on a Super Bowl Sunday 35 years ago.

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21 Responses to DT Lifted ACC Sky High

  1. 66pack 03/10/2008 at 9:21 AM #

    During DT’s first two years State, UNC, & Maryland were all ranked in the top 3 in the polls. That is when ACC BB was the best. It seems the last couple of years we may be the 4th or 5th best conf and, if not for unc and duke, the conf would be as significant in bb as ncsu atheletics as a whole.

  2. StateFans 03/10/2008 at 9:33 AM #

    I disagree a little bit that the conference is the 4th or 5th best. It’s definitely not been as strong at the #3-#6 spot in recent years…but, not bein as strong as the ACC historically has been is different from not being as strong as other conferences.

    We’ve been so spoiled by how good the conference has been that we tend to compare ourselves with our past as opposed to with other conferences.

    For the record, the conference is ranked #1 in the RPI this year.

  3. SMD 03/10/2008 at 9:44 AM #

    For a little contrast, the N&O ran a piece today “celebrating” Jimmy V’s legacy. Never mind that they helped lead the mob to run him off in the first place.

    I just sent this letter to the editor –
    Dear Editor –

    Readers who didn’t live in the Triangle area 20 years ago may find your recent story on Jim Valvano heartwarming. As a Raleigh native and proud graduate of NC State, I think the story is disgusting. There was no mention of your newspaper’s role in ruining the dynamic young coach’s tenure as head of the Wolfpack basketball program. There was no mention of how your newspaper ran whole excerpts from the ant-Valvano work of fiction, “Personal Fouls”, with little or no research into the truth. For those of us who really loved Jimmy V, your story rings a bit hollow.


    We’ll see if they print it.

  4. Sweet jumper 03/10/2008 at 9:57 AM #

    Thank you SMD. You spoke the truth to the N & O.

  5. Sweet jumper 03/10/2008 at 10:24 AM #

    David Thompson–The best I have ever seen and probably the best that I will ever see.

  6. 66pack 03/10/2008 at 10:25 AM #

    STATEFANS—- I would rank pac 10,sec,big east and possibly big12 better than acc.I believe that we have some bad head coaches in this league and unc and duke’s dominance has hurt recruiting at all the other schools.

  7. Wulfpack 03/10/2008 at 10:39 AM #

    No question the Big East, Pac 10 and Big 12 are stronger this year. But the SEC I am not so sure about. The Big East could get 9 bids. We will be lucky to get 5.

  8. StateFans 03/10/2008 at 10:40 AM #

    I can completely understand the feelings about the N&O. But, I think that we all need to remember that the paper is an inanimate object and doesn’t live on its own.

    The ownership group and management of the paper that led the witch-hunt against Jimmy V and NC State is long gone. The SPORTS section of the paper has treated and covered us very well over the last 8 to 10 years.

    Barry Saunders and Ruth Sheehan are different stories.

  9. EverettBeez 03/10/2008 at 10:41 AM #

    thanks for the pleasant memories. sometimes its good to dwell in the past, just to let go of the present reality.

  10. kyjelly 03/10/2008 at 11:52 AM #

    great indeed but how far we have fallen

  11. Octavian 03/10/2008 at 11:54 AM #

    66Pack, who’s side are you on? You need to stop drinking the media Koolaid. 4th or 5th best…are you nuts?? Look at everyone beating up on each other and note, the ACC still is #1 in RPI

  12. StateFans 03/10/2008 at 12:13 PM #

    I understand 66’s thinking. It is the initial natural thought for everyone, including the media — when assessing the strength of the conference they always look at the top of the conference and how many above average teams exist.

    They never compare the bottom of the conferences to and give similar credit to the strength in the 9, 10, 11, 12 positions.

    * The ACC dominated the Big Ten in the Challenge…again.

    * Virginia beat Arizona IN TUCSON.

    * Our worst team, NC State, went 3-0 against teams in the middle of the ‘tough Big East’ playing one game at home, one on the road, and one at a neutral site.

  13. wufpup76 03/10/2008 at 1:13 PM #

    ^Thank you for making that point about confernce strength from TOP TO BOTTOM, StateFans …

    I think the only league that compares favorably on overall conference strength is the Pac-10 this season … They are slightly behind b/c of Oregon State

    Top of the conference is another story, as the ACC only has 3 teams that would be “locks” for finishing in the upper echelon of other power conferences

  14. SMD 03/10/2008 at 1:32 PM #

    SFN – I agree that things have improved tremendously with the N&O. And perhaps my letter was just a wee bit on the strong side.

    BUT – I stand by my contention that it rings a bit hollow for the paper to now celebrate V when they helped run him off. At the very least, the story could have mentioned the newspaper’s role in feeding the public hysteria.

    Of course, as I think BJD95 has alluded to in the past, the largest failing is our own, for not having a counter public relations plan in place and leaving one of our own out to dry.

  15. PackerInRussia 03/10/2008 at 3:13 PM #

    I did not become a State fan until 1999, my freshman year. I always enjoy hearing memories of the Wolfpack’s great history. It always gives me a boost in pride for my school. I remember meeting DT several years (2001?) ago before the Red/White bball game in the lobby of the RBC Center. He graciously allowed us to take our picture with him and I was content to let him walk away and get on with his life, but started asking if we thought State would have a good season and stuff as if he were just a regular Pack fan who happened to run into another one. I wish I’d taken the opportunity to shoot the breeze, but I was kind of shocked that he didn’t just want to move on after “doing his duty” as a NC State legend. That helped solidify in mind that he was “the man”. In my mind, he cannot be honored, recognized, etc. enough.

  16. cowdog 03/10/2008 at 5:43 PM #

    My goodness, peeps. DT was the absolute epitome of greatnes on the the court…leaving one’s eye balls lidless. What he did without the dunk and no 3 probably influenced the ESPN thing that placed him at 8 all-time.

    Have no real prob with ESPN’s top five since I named ’em after learning DT’s slot…but, boy, wasn’t anyone more MAGNIFICANT. That’s the adjective, magnificant

  17. highstick 03/10/2008 at 8:35 PM #

    I was a student with DT, Tommy B, Monte and the crew. What a team! A friend of mine on a baseball scholarship brought David over to my apartment when he was a brand new freshman. I’d never heard of him, but that same night I became a believer that he could “pick quarters off the top of the backboard.” Humble young man and I’ll never forget his basketball talents and “will to win”!

  18. turfpack 03/10/2008 at 10:25 PM #


  19. Ismael 03/10/2008 at 11:35 PM #

    speaking of the N&O, i saved alot of the sports sections from his last year, i was in high school. Stupid study hall teacher was a UNC grad, that was rich.

  20. cooldrip 03/11/2008 at 1:33 AM #

    Outlawing the dunk and no 3 pt shots probably made DT a better player. I watch video of him, and try to think of a player now with the midrange, pullup game he had. Since every basket was worth 2 points, you learned to find the best shot. And he had every shot and move in the book!

  21. oldflyingfarmer 03/11/2008 at 5:37 AM #

    After the N&O went on their witch hunt against NC State, I haven’t spent a dime on them since. I still read it, if available but refuse to give them my money. Plus, they are way to liberal.
    David Thompson was the greatest in my opinion. Maybe in my mind, his feats have grown.

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