- GEN - The rise and fall of Memphis' other dynasty

Outside the Lines
Monday, June 4
Updated: June 21, 12:21 PM ET
The rise and fall of Memphis' other dynasty

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – For all its history and hype, Graceland is a quaint little spread. Elvis Presley, hopelessly young, handsome and clear-eyed, bought it in 1957 for the grand sum of $100,000.

Today, for $16 (tax included), you can see The King's home as it was when he died: the mirrored ceiling in the mod television room, the funky circular white bed, the psychedelic shag carpeting that covers the floors and, believe it or not, some walls. A musty, museum-quality decay pervades the place.

Elvis, a tragic victim of excess and self-indulgence, is buried in the garden out back, amid bright perennials and the sweet-smelling, fresh-cut flower arrangements that arrive daily from his fans around the world. This – along with the ambient blues and barbeque of Beale Street – is the shuttle-bus view of Memphis, Tenn., that outsiders take away with them.

But if you are really looking for the soul of this city, follow Route 3 about 70 miles south of Graceland, past the casinos, and go to Lambert, Miss., just past Marks. Turn into the Quitman County Elementary School and take the gravel road around to the back, walk past the listing, rusted basketball hoops and follow the only path to the far left corner of the stark, dusty cemetery. Faded blue and yellow silk flowers and a head stone adorn the sunken grave of Baskerville Holmes, or "Batman," as it says on the attached granite vase.

He was an athletic, incandescent 6-foot-7 forward for the Memphis State basketball team that went to the NCAA Final Four in 1985 – a major factor in the wave that gripped Memphis in the middle 1980s, a force of nature that still dominates today's basketball landscape in this edgy city by the Mississippi River.

Holmes' mother, Dora Holmes-Hare, wiped her tears during a visit to her son's grave last month and reflected on the team that was Memphis. Incredibly, 11 of 12 players on the roster were from the Memphis area.

"It was their chemistry," Holmes-Hare said. "By them being from the same town, they knew each other and I think they knew what to expect from one another because they had played against one another in high school. And when they got to college, they just built on that."

She was in Dallas when the Tigers advanced to the Final Four with a 63-61 victory over Oklahoma. She was there in Lexington, Ky., when Memphis State lost to eventual champion Villanova, 52-45 in the semifinals. Memphis State finished the 1984-85 season with a school-record 31 victories. Those Tigers lit up the city like no one had, well, since Elvis started cutting tracks of wax for Sun Records.

"I would say that we were the best team in the country," says Dana Kirk, the head coach of that Tigers team. "With 45 seconds to go, it's a one-point ballgame. They had [Gary] McLain, who shot six straight free throws. We had to foul him, and we lost.

"But looking back, it was an amazing season. It was like flipping on a light switch and we just kept going and going and we kept it rolling."

William Bedford, the Tigers' 7-foot center, has largely fond memories.

"Everybody loved us then," he said. "The city was just in awe of us."

Time may heal all wounds, but it has been cruel to the 1984-85 Memphis State team.

Memphis State
The 1984-85 season was the brightest in Memphis State's history. Four players went on to be drafted by NBA teams over the next two years, but tough times awaited three of those players, as well as head coach Dana Kirk (center).
Holmes is dead after a horrific murder-suicide episode four years ago. Bedford faces 10 years in prison after he was arrested earlier this year for possession of 25 pounds of marijuana. Kirk was fired in 1986, leaving the school on probation for a variety of offenses; he was later sentenced to one year in jail after he was found guilty of tax evasion and obstruction of justice. Larry Finch, an assistant under Kirk who inherited his mess, could never quite right the ship. Power forward Keith Lee was the Tigers' best player, yet lasted only three mediocre seasons in the NBA. Point guard Andre Turner, "The Little General," played for seven NBA teams in six years and is still bouncing around in Europe.

Three Memphis State players were selected in the 1986 NBA Draft: Bedford went No. 6 overall to Phoenix, Holmes No. 68 to Milwaukee and Turner No. 69 to the L.A. Lakers at the end of the third round. On many levels, those Memphis State Tigers are the star-crossed 1986 Draft in microcosm. Like Elvis in his later days, they're bloated, almost beyond recognition. So much shimmering talent, so little to show for it 15 years later.

The draft that produced Len Bias, Chris Washburn and Roy Tarpley – who, like Bedford, all ran afoul of cocaine.

Bedford, who now lives in Katy, Texas, rarely returns to Memphis, the scene of his greatest glories.

"I feel more at peace when I'm away," Bedford said. "I don't feel like I'm under a microscope, you know what I'm saying? There's just a lot of things going on there that aren't very comfortable. I just don't care being around there."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for

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Baskerville Holmes: 'I got so much on my mind, I don't know what to do'

William Bedford: 'People don't think about the consequences'

Keith Lee: 'That's all in the past'

Andre Turner: 'You have to move on ... with life'

Dana Kirk: 'The Slickest Rat in the Barn'

Larry Finch: 'When the basketball is over, reality sets in'

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