I Said Bang!: A History of the Dirt Bowl

A book about 46 years of community building through basketball, told by people who have been a part of the tradition.

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Winner of two 2017 Leadership in History Awards from the American Association for State and Local History and a 2016 Kentucky History Award from the Kentucky Historical Society!

In 1969, amid the turmoil of the civil rights era, two college students started the Dirt Bowl, a summer-long basketball tournament in Louisville's Algonquin Park. By the end of that summer, thousands of people packed the park every weekend to connect with one another and to watch high-level basketball featuring the best players in the region. It was the biggest event of that year for a great many people in the nation’s most basketball-obsessed city. The rest is history. Generations of people have bonded, reunited, competed, laughed, shown off, and celebrated one another at the Dirt Bowl.

1969 Algonquin Park 1
Inaugural Dirt Bowl - Algonquin Park, 1969

I Said Bang! is a book about 46 years of building community through basketball, written by dozens of people who have contributed to and been shaped by the Dirt Bowl tradition: organizers, players, spectators, announcers, referees, vendors, and coaches. This book weaves together their stories and experiences to paint an impressionistic portrait of the Dirt Bowl and the community that nurtures and sustains it.


Over the course of year and a half, the Louisville Story Program and dozens of people in the Dirt Bowl community—organizers, players, coaches, spectators, vendors, and referees—worked together to develop the book you are now holding. Some contributors participated in weekly writing workshops for an extended period of time. Others developed their pieces by participating in interviews with other project participants or with LSP staff, then collaboratively editing transcriptions of those interviews with us. The result is a truly one-of-a-kind book, the richest account ever of a community’s playground basketball heritage. 

Haskins Tinsley Cj Photo
George Tinsley guards Clem Haskins in the Dirt Bowl, 1971

As a companion piece to the book, the Louisville Story Program and WFPL co-produced this 50-minute radio documentary about the Dirt Bowl. "I Said Bang!" co-author Ravon Churchill narrates and earns his first co-production credit. Give it a listen! 

More videos about the Dirt Bowl, from Kertis Creative: