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The slender 7'4 Burleson came to national attention with the famed North Carolina State Wolfpack in the early 1970s. The team also had star David Thompson and guard Monty Towe, but it was Burleson who did just enough against Bill Walton to help NC State get past UCLA, and then to a NCAA championship. There were still some skeptics when Burleson entered the NBA. Arriving at just 230 pounds with some lateral movement slowness, some were not sure he could be a quality starting center in a league then stuffed with very good centers. Bill Russell was his domineering mentor in Seattle, and there were plenty of tough days there. At one point, Burleson was even benched behind 6'10 journeyman Mike Green. Some have since said that Russell, rarely an effective coach outside of Boston, may have hindered Burleson's pro development. A decent in-close hook shooter and rebounder as a pro, Burleson was best as a shot blocker. He spent time with the Kansas City Kings.