LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A celebration is being planned to kick off the 50th anniversary of Louisville's Dirt Bowl.

The annual basketball tournament started in 1969 by two Metro Parks recreation leaders, Ben Watkins and Janis Carter Miller. They wanted to bring people of all races together in a time when there was a lot of local and national conflict.

"We had no idea that we would bring communities together such as the west end, south end, east end. People from all over came to the Dirt Bowl. But, to see it now, after 50 years is just off the chain," said Watkins.

Over the years, the tournament has featured some pretty big names before they became famous in the NBA including Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith, Rajon Rondo, Derek Anderson, Ron King, Artis Gilmore, Wes Unseld and Dan Issel.

The basketball tournament has regained popularity lost in the mid-2000s, after Mayor Greg Fischer and then-Councilwoman Cheri Bryant-Hamilton helped resurrect the tradition. It's now part sporting and part social event that organizers describe as "part basketball tournament, part block party and part family reunion."

The city will celebrate the Dirt Bowl's 50th anniversary by adding a marker and a panel at the Frazier History Museum detailing the tournament's history.

The Dirt Bowl was originally held at Algonquin Park but moved to Shawnee Park in 1970. So a kickoff celebration is planned at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16 at Algonquin Park that will include a slam drunk and three-point shooting contest. There will also be a game featuring last year's Dirt Bowl winners, Business as Usual.

Dirt Bowl games begin June 22 at Shawnee Park with tournament play beginning Aug. 3. The Dirt Bowl Championship games will take place the weekend of Aug. 11-12, 2019. A special 50th anniversary awards dinner will take place at the Frazier History Museum on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019.

Dirt Bowl 50th Anniversary Events:

  • Sunday, June 9, 2 p.m., Virtue, 103 S. Oak St: Event to accept team signups at Virtue Restaurant in Old Louisville.
  • Sunday, June 16, 3:30 p.m., Algonquin Park: Kickoff celebration, including announcement of an historical marker (to come), as well as slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests, and a game between last year's Dirt Bowl winner, Business as Usual, and an opponent TBD.
  • Saturday/Sunday, June 22-23, Shawnee Park: Tip-off for the 2019 season games.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 6 p.m., Frazier History Museum: Dirt Bowl history panel.
  • June/July, Shawnee Park: Games every Saturday and Sunday except the weekend of July 27-28, when West Louisville Appreciation Day is held.
  • Aug. 3-4, Shawnee Park: Dirt Bowl tournament begins.
  • Aug. 11-12, Shawnee Park: Championship games and crowning of championship teams.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 6 p.m., Frazier History Museum: 50th anniversary awards dinner.

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