This story has been contributed by James Blackburn, who ran into the ABA and NBA legendary shooter Luther Burden, a.k.a., ‘Ticky’ at the gym last week:
You never know who you might run into during your regular daily routine. This past Monday, I found myself playing a simple game of HORSE with a basketball legend. After lifting weights and warming up on my own, I strolled over to the basket where I saw “Ticky” shooting. I asked him if he wanted to play HORSE, and he said he would. Three losses later, and after giving “Ticky” maybe 2 letters total on a day when I thought my shot was great; I had to ask who he was and where he played. My question quickly made me feel stupid, because Ticky had been a superstar.
Luther Burden was born in Florida in 1953, but grew up in New York. Ticky talks about growing up in the shadow of New York basketball legends, and how he played on the same courts with Dr. J and Connie Hawkins. He learned how to dribble at an early age, and could get to the lane at will only to be met by taller players. Ticky said he had to learn how to jump, so he developed a 42” vertical. Luther told me the next thing he learned how to do was to shoot. And learn how to shoot he did, becoming one of the greatest shooters this world has ever known.
Ticky took his game to the University of Utah after being a high school All-American. In Ticky’s three years at Utah, from 1972-1975, he scored 1,790 points, 5th best in University of Utah men’s basketball history. During his junior year as captain of the team, Ticky averaged 28.7 points, while shooting over 50% from the field as a guard. He also set a Western Athletic Conference record for field goals in a season with 359.
In 1974 Luther Burden represented the United States in the FIBA World Championship. He led the team to a bronze medal with a scoring average of 20.2 ppg over the course of 9 games. Luther still holds the record of the highest scoring average of any U.S. player in World Championship history.
Ticky elected to leave school after his junior year, drafted by the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the New York Knicks of the NBA. Ticky played one year in the ABA and then left to play for the Knicks in the NBA. Ticky played for 3 years, having his career shortened by injuries.
Today Ticky lives in Winston-Salem, NC working with the young people on their basketball fundamentals. Ticky believes that there is a lack of fundamentals in today’s game, and he emphasizes this when he teaches kids the game. He has coached many players over the years, and deserves the credit for many of the stars that call Winston-Salem home, including past local stars and now NBA All-Stars, Chris Paul and Josh Howard. Luther “Ticky” Burden changed the game of basketball, leaving his mark on the game as one of the finest players to ever hit the hardwood.
Here’s some video of Ticky from the 1974 NIT: