He was a great player, he went through some tough times, but had straightened himself out and was doing great things. It’s just sad that he’s passing at such an early age. —Utah athletics director Chris Hill
SALT LAKE CITY — Former University of Utah basketball star Luther “Ticky” Burden died Thursday morning in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Winston-Salem Journal reported that the 62-year-old was hospitalized last week from complications while preparing for eye surgery following a battle with ATTR amyloidosis, an immune system disease.
Burden, who played professionally with the ABA’s Virginia Squires and NBA’s New York Knicks, is the sixth-leading scorer in Utah history with 1,790 points — trailing only Keith Van Horn, Billy McGill, Josh Grant, Luke Nevill and Mike Newlin.
“I had the opportunity to get to know Ticky my very first year I moved out here. I was a graduate assistant and he was a fantastic player for us,” said Utah athletics director Chris Hill. “He was a great player, he went through some tough times, but had straightened himself out and was doing great things. It’s just sad that he’s passing at such an early age.”
The 6-foot-2 All-American shooting guard from Albany, New York, turned pro after averaging 28.7 points per game as a junior in 1974-75. He averaged 13.1 points over 134 games with the Squires and Knicks.
In 1980, Burden was allegedly involved in a bank robbery with three other men. He was imprisoned for two years before the conviction was overturned because of search warrant issues.
Burden went on to run a youth basketball program at the YMCA in Winston-Salem, where he helped hone the skills of NBA star Chris Paul and many others.
Luther Burden Jr., Ticky’s son, told the Journal that his father “taught countless kids the game of basketball and it was something he loved to do.”
The Utah athletics department inducted Burden into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame in April 2011.
"I've received a lot of honors over my lifetime but this is real special for me," Burden said at the time. He had lost contact with the school for more than three decades before receiving the accolade.
"I feel great. I'm going to enjoy this,” Burden said. “The university has opened their arms up to me and expressed that they want me to be part of the family again. So I'm real pleased.”
Burden wasn’t alone.
“He was so excited about it and we were excited about it,” Hill said.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Burden, who had reportedly been in declining health the past couple of years, died in his sleep at the Forsyth Medical Center.