WRAL: Small town Raleigh marveled at 74 Wolfpack

A great retrospective done by Dane Huffman at WRAL.com. Click here.

Then came in 1974 – and Raleigh became the epicenter of a story that would change college basketball. Duke was amazing in 1992, and North Carolina was phenomenal in ’82. But State was unique, in its talent and its time. The fading films and black and white photos still evoke an amazing team that remains the ACC’s best.

David Thompson, of course, was surreal. Everyone remembers his ability to leap and grab Monte Towe’s alley-oops, but when you see him on film again you’re stunned at how quickly and accurately he shoots. Give him a three-point line and a chance to dunk and he’d be unbelievable. He remains, hands down, the most talented player to grace an ACC court.

Thompson’s impact extended beyond the court. Polite and thoughtful, he was admired by whites still adjusting to watching blacks on their ACC teams. The love Thompson and his teammates shared was an important symbol in a society still learning to sit side by side.

As a complement to WRAL’s entry I felt as though this previous entry would be of high interest to our readers.

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63 Responses to WRAL: Small town Raleigh marveled at 74 Wolfpack

  1. Sweet jumper 07/16/2008 at 1:39 PM #

    DT was the best basketball player in the history of the ACC, and he was definitely one of the top 10 and arguably one of the top 5 college basketball players of all time. He averaged 26.6 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game for his college career and 35.4 points and 10+ rebounds per game for the freshman team. His game was breathtaking to watch in person. He was at an entirely different level than everyone else on the court. I was 13-15 years old during his varsity career, and DT and those teams were incredibly skilled and unbelieveably close. They banded together as one and did not let egos ruin their chemistry. I was fortunate to see DT play in person many times. I do not think that there will be another DT in my lifetime.

  2. RabidWolf 07/16/2008 at 2:15 PM #

    Sometimes I think I was born 10 years too late (and then when I look around, 10 years too early), as I was 3 when this phenominal team made it’s permanent mark in basketball history. I still marvel at the skill and grace that was Towe-Thompson, and the near dominance of Burleson. One can only hope that sometime in the near future, NCSU can return to the glory days that were the 1950’s-1980’s.

  3. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 2:27 PM #

    “College basketball was once a very special thing. I can’t even watch anymore. It’s like watching Unitas in a Chargers uni…or Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield for the Mets.”

    WOW! That statement is totally confusing to me.

  4. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 2:46 PM #

    What I’m saying, and please think about this, is that there were players with different physical attributes that dominated their positions, but let’s say we wave a magic wand, let them all retain all of their personal BB skills, and make them all 6’4″ tall. Or visa versa even, make a leaping, shot blocking, shooting machine and league scoring leader like DT, the same height as the best center in the history of the game, then who would you choose in a friendly pick up game.

  5. spanky 07/16/2008 at 2:49 PM #

    This is just depressing… I have clips… old videos… and thats the only experience of any REAL N.C. State basketball success I can claim…
    To put it in perspective… NCSU has not even won an ACC title in my LIFETIME. I was born 10/1987…

  6. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 3:00 PM #

    Spanky, don’t get too down, you’re actually one of the lucky ones. I’ve seen pretty much all of it since my memories go back to the early/mid ’60’s, and just knowing what ONCE WAS, and comparing it to what NOW IS, will ABSOLUTELY RIP YOUR HEART OUT.

  7. Noah 07/16/2008 at 3:13 PM #

    No Noah, he was not as impressive as DT, and for the same reason you listed, HE WAS 6′7″, and he was NOT as good, all around, as David Thompson was.

    We will have to agree to disagree then. Thompson is the best player in ACC history. He’s one of the top five non-centers to ever play college basketball (I don’t see how you could compare DT to Alcindor or Russell), but if we’re talking about a total body of work, I don’t know where DT ranks. It’s below Jordan, obviously. It’s below Oscar Robertson. It’s below Julius Erving.

    But it’s certainly something that can be debated. It’s like arguing over whether or not Teddy f-ing Ballgame was as good or better than Babe Ruth (Williams was better).

  8. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 3:38 PM #

    Noah, again, just like all of the “so called” experts of this day and time, you cannot seem to separate the college game from the pro’s.

    Also, I am saying that as ball player DT could have stayed with, and outshown MJ in the pro’s. He was up to every challenge that was thrown at him in his day, but he was just too nice and niave to survive his own success.

    I’ll let it go without going into all of the reasons and the circumstances of his professional career, but in my humble opinion there is no way to say that anyone but MJ, was even comparable to a healthy, drug free, David Thompson.

  9. Noah 07/16/2008 at 3:41 PM #

    Okay, let’s just stick with college ball.

    And I’m assuming you agree with me that you can’t compare centers with everyone else?

    How do you conclusively state that DT was better than Oscar Robertson?

  10. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 4:47 PM #

    Noah, DT came out of the ABA, as did Dr J, Gervin, and on and on…
    It was definitely the wrong league for a kid like Thompson. If you need, I’ll go into the reasons, but I think you know the different focus and exactly what I’m alluding to. DT’s entire game, which was chock full of complete BB skills of every kind imaginable, was quickly set aside in order to promote his scoring and leaping ability in a league that cared even less about playing sound basketball than the NBA does today. I have looong theory as to why (I think) the ABA was especially bad for someone like DT and why he possibly lost some of his BB instincts and overall skills because of his time spent there, but that’s another story altogether.

    David Thompson had better physical tools than MJ, he also had every other tool to go along with them, timing, instinct, he was always where he needed to be, and WHEN he needed to be. He could anticipate the pass, get the steal, go up over much taller post players and grab a rebound, he could pass, he could shoot from over 25′, and more importantly, from inside 25′, he could do it A L L, game after game, with a consistency that I have never seen from anyone else wearing a pair of high tops.

    I will always say that if you put DT, in his prime, against anyone, including Oscar Robertson, Dr J, and even MJ, that if you wanted or needed a player that could do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that was neccessary, one with an uncanny ability to be right there anticipating it before it ever even happened, along the cool to execute and make it pay dividends afterwards, that was David Thompson.

  11. EverettBeez 07/16/2008 at 5:14 PM #

    Not only was there a different feeling on campus (“Met here to streak after the win tonight! signs in the old Union) but Raleigh felt different. It was only 110,000, hell Cary was only about 20K, if that. You actually had the feeling you were living in a small town.

    I vote for DT being the best college player of all time. there are lots of great ones, DT was stupendous. (and I spelled that correctly on the first shot!)

    Two more memories to add to that team – Stormin’ Norm’s plaid pants, and his wife singing the national anthem accompanied by the organ that use to sit at the south end of court in the barn. I think one of the first questions asked of Jimmy V when he was hired “will your wife be singing the national anthem?” She did not.

  12. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 5:20 PM #

    Could DT go up high enough to grab rebounds away from ANYBODY? Yes

    Could DT go up high enough to block ANYBODY? YES

    Could DT go up high enough to shoot over ANYBDDY? YES

    Could DT go up high enough to guard a bigger man? YES

    Did he have the speed to stay with a smaller man? YES

    Was he willing to do all of these things? YES, everytime he hit the court

    He was unselfish and MORE than willing to concentrate all of skills on exploiting whatever particular weaknesses that the opponent had shown, He scored, and scored in bunches, but he did whatever, from everywhere on the court, that it took to win the game. Your example of a 6’4″ David Thompson rushing in, and leaving the floor well after his 7’4″ teammate already had, and going right between to block Bill Walton’s shot is the most spectacular proof there is of what I’m trying to say. He shouldn’t have even been able to affect that shot, he shouldn’t have even been in there between those two giants attempting it, he should have been guarding his man instead, but he knew exactly where he needed to be, and he went up as high as neccesary to make a play on the ball, and he did like no one else could. Not MJ, NOT NOBODY,and NOT NO HOW. He did similar every night, not as specular maybe, but something every night and every time he was on the BB court for a reason.

    That was before though, and for a very brief while after, when the boy from rural NC stepped out into a world without anything in the way of a superior on any level, and no caution signs in sight.

  13. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 5:34 PM #

    I know, I said about out six thousand words ago that I was going to drop the subject, but what the hay.

  14. highstick 07/16/2008 at 5:55 PM #

    Could DT jump over the backboard?? Probably, if he wanted to!! LOL!

    Regarding Burleson in the elevator…he sat in front of me in a philosophy class in one of those small wooden desks. He had to be in the front row so he had somewhere to put his legs!

  15. EverettBeez 07/16/2008 at 6:01 PM #

    Let me pick up on this earlier statement – DT’s tremendous talent, quiet demeanor, and great humility made him in many ways the ideal star for the early 70s South. Raleigh’s schools were not fully integrated until 1972, and it seems to me that Ole Miss didn’t even have a black player on the basketball team until that year. Thompson was a black player that many whites could admire, and that eased the transition for so many that followed him. He didn’t keep his temper in check, like Jackie Robertson, he really was that mild manner. This is not a great reflection on whites, that we (the general we) needed this shy young man to help us accept integration, but it sure helped, and its just the way it is.

    I think we all forget that we are not that far past segregation – if you are 50 yrs or older, there is an excellent chance you went to a segregated school. Thompson deserves to be remembered as a ground breaker in this regards too. He was exactly what the racists feared most – a hugely talented man, beating whites on the court, being wildly cheered by whites in the stands, and his poster going up in thousands of young white’s bedrooms. You can’t maintain the false myth of white superiority in the face of that.

  16. blpack 07/16/2008 at 9:05 PM #

    That group of players were my first heroes, even as a little kid in SC at the time. I admired Towe’s toughness. I wanted to be tall like TB and be all everything like DT. They were the greatest. I thought for several years after that the game against UCLA was the Finals. Just an awesome win against the bullies NO ONE could beat in March for 7 years. Nice they could finish the job vs. Marquette.

  17. highstick 07/16/2008 at 9:23 PM #

    Beez, there was a black freshman football player in my freshman class the fall of 63(so as not confuse everyone, I did two 2 year stints with an Army break in the middle). Anyway, I cannot remember his name nor can I ever remember him playing other than freshman football. That would have been the year before Chuck, but would have been in the same class with Jim Donnan.

    DT was not the first at State even in basketball, although he was the most prominant and a really class act. Ed Leftwich was there before, Al Heartley, and maybe a couple more than I’m overlooking.

    David was one of the most mild mannered(actually shy and somewhat introverted when I met him his freshman year). I have an awesome respect for what he’s done and the problems he overcame.

    When you talked about where you lived, I can remember “sliding my VW Bug” into ungodly tiny spaces to park it along those streets. I could almost park it in a “matchbox”.

  18. EverettBeez 07/16/2008 at 9:37 PM #

    Highstick, appreciate that clarification. It was not my intent to suggest he broke the color barrier, maybe just the color barrier of the mind for many folks. I’ll dig out my book to see when the color barrier was broken at State & the ACC. I know it took much longer in the SEC, and basketball lagged in the SEC.

    It was certainly unimaginable even in 1970 for white kids to run around yelling they wanted to “Be Like Mike”. Things have changed, a lot, and I think DT had a big role in that. In fact, that’d be a darn good paper for any history majors out there! Actually, be pretty good for me if I didn’t have about 3 irons in the fire.

    Isn’t there also a story about Case bringing an integrated team to the Dixie Classic? It always sticks out in my mind that Rupp would not play integrated teams. There is also a great story about Mississippi State having to sneak into Alabama to fly to the NCAA’s because the sheriff was on his way to arrest them all to keep them from playing an integrated team. That is in the 50s.

  19. Noah 07/17/2008 at 7:53 AM #

    I don’t think you’re wrong about Thompson. I just think you can make an argument that the Big O (or Alcidor, Bill Russell, or maybe even Pete Maravich) was the best college player of all time. I think any argument for any of those guys would be legitimate.

    DT is the best player in ACC history. He’s so far ahead of whoever is #2 that I think you ought to just leave the #2 spot empty and go right on to #3. It’s like those films of Secretariat where he’s winning the triple crown and no one else is even in the frame because his lead is so big. The second place finisher was so far behind that he came in third.

    I’ll tell you something funny — I was talking about this with someone who was a Dook grad and she tried to claim that (wait for it) … Christian Laettner was the best ACC player of all time.

    I thought she was kidding. This is a seasoned Dook fan. She goes to all the Final Fours, she goes to ACC tourneys, she’s a lifelong season ticket holder and member of the Iron Dooks and all of that.

    If I made a list of “best dook players,” Laettner MIGHT crack my top-20. Sh*t, he wasn’t even the best player on those teams! Hell, he wasn’t even the SECOND best player on those teams.

    Laettner? Better than Ferry, Art Heyman, Gene Banks, Dawkins, Langdon, Hill, Hurley, Jeff Mullins, Dick Groat, Jim Spanarkel, Mike Gminski, Jason Williams, JJ Reddick, or Shane Battier?

    HELL NO.

  20. Wolf Dog 07/17/2008 at 8:15 AM #

    Typical Carolina fan that Noah. You can’t have a conversation or bring up DT without some UNX fag bringing up MJ. No contest DT was by far hands down a much better college player that MJ. DT cut his NBA career and legacy short with a knee injury.

  21. Texpack 07/17/2008 at 8:21 AM #

    The ’73 & ’74 Wolfpack basketball teams were special indeed. People who weren’t alive at the time can’t fully appreciate how dominant UCLA was through the ’60’s and early ’70’s. Knocking off UCLA was monumental. I remember watching that game with my Dad who graduated from State in ’50. Nine years later we watched the Georgia game in the final Four together before I headed back to State to watch the UH game.

    The ’73 & ’74 teams dominated the ACC like no other teams have ever done. David Thompson is unquestionably the greatest player in the history of ACC Basketball.

    The early exits to the NBA have killed what college basketball was. No longer do you have Len Elmore and Tom McMillan doing battle with Tom Burleson for three years and David Thompson for two years. I am lucky to have experienced both championships and to have been at State for the one in ’83. As special as the ’83 team and championship is to me personally, ending the reign of UCLA made the ’74 championship just as special.

  22. BillyTheKid 07/17/2008 at 8:21 AM #

    Noah, you really think that Laettner was not as good as Banks, Hurley, or Spanarkel? I really liked Banks and Spanarkel as a kid but I would think of Laettner having a better all around game, more MVP type. Just asking

  23. Noah 07/17/2008 at 8:24 AM #

    DT cut his NBA career and legacy short with a knee injury.

    Typical mongoloid wolf dog. DT’s career was already over when he hurt his knee falling down the steps of Studio 54. He had already been released and had no contract offers.

  24. Wolf Dog 07/17/2008 at 8:26 AM #

    Laettner was the best player on that team. He was even on the Olympic Dream Team. Two National championships, he was a great college player and has proven to be a very durable and decent NBA player much the same as the G man from Duke was. He has had a very long and successful NBA career. The person that does not get as much credit as he deserves for the success of the 74 team is Tommy B. He’s the one that had to defend Walton and the other great centers of that time.

  25. Noah 07/17/2008 at 8:29 AM #

    Noah, you really think that Laettner was not as good as Banks, Hurley, or Spanarkel? I really liked Banks and Spanarkel as a kid but I would think of Laettner having a better all around game, more MVP type. Just asking

    I think Laettner was the very model of the modern white forward. Average shooter, horrible defender, poor rebounder for his size. If he had played anywhere else and didn’t have the benefit of being constantly surrounded by much better players, no one would even know his name.

    He got lucky on two short-range jumpers that happened to be played on a national stage. He’s Francisco Cabrerra with a stupid haircut and his mom looks like Beeker in a neckbrace.

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