Dissertation Defense Announcement

The College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of

Keith Wood

for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

September 28, 2018 at 3:00 PM in Mitchell Hall

Advisor: Aram Goudsouzian

Larry Finch's Memphis: Race, Basketball, and the City, 1967-1997

ABSTRACT: At the center of the 1973 Memphis State Tigers' run to the national championship game lies Larry Finch, whose basketball career spanned a period of profound change in the city of Memphis. This study seeks to examine how the community, both black and white, used basketball to construct an identity for Memphis. By examining Memphis basketball at the high school, collegiate, and professional level in the 1970s and 1980s, a more nuanced understanding of race relations in the city can be achieved. This study also examines how basketball forged black pride, black manhood, and black community during these years in the city. Finch was proclaimed as a symbol of the racial healing power of basketball for Memphis, but basketball also provides a vehicle to examine the racial inequalities and issues that pervaded the city in these same years. Basketball, as a social function, allowed black identity to be recast in a positive light following the turbulent times that preceded this era. Basketball also served as a forum for symbolic political assertion and an arena for real political struggle for blacks in Memphis. Political battles in Memphis involving school busing, public housing, crime, and white flight tell a story that runs counter to the myth of racial unity surrounding the 1973 Tiger team and the city. Finch's role varies in each of these basketball stories, but it is his image as a vehicle of racial healing in the city through basketball that drives this inquiry.