Hanging from the rafters in The Pyramid are eight Tiger jerseys which symbolize the great success that The University of Memphis basketball has enjoyed over its 74-year history.
The retired jerseys belong to Win Wilfong (#22), John Gunn (#44), Larry Finch (#21), Ronnie Robinson (#33), Keith Lee (#24), Elliot Perry (#34), Anfernee Hardaway (#25) and Forest Arnold (#13). Wilfong's was the first jersey the Tigers retired.
Following, in order, are biographies of the eight Tiger players whose exploits in the Tiger blue and gray have earned them the distinction of having their jerseys forever hang high above The Pyramid.
The late Win Wilfong, who stands 17th on The University of Memphis' all-time scoring list with 1,203 points, played basketball for the Tigers from 1955-57 and led the Tigers to a 44-13 mark.
Wilfong played under coaches Eugene Lambert and Bob Vanatta and was considered at the time, the best player in Tiger history. Wilfong, a versatile player, could do it all in his time, score, rebound and handle the basketball. In The U of M record book, he currently stands in the top ten in 15 different statistical categories. For his career, Wilfong averaged 21.5 points and 12.3 rebounds a game. In the 1955-56 season against Union, Wilfong poured in 40 points, which stands as the sixth most in a single-game at The U of M. In fact, Wilfong had 30 or more points in 11 different games during his career.
In the 1956-57 season, which some say was the true arrival of The University of Memphis basketball, Wilfong led the Tigers to their first NIT bid at the famed Madison Square Garden. The Tigers opened up with a 77-75 win over Utah in The U of M's first-ever nationally-televised game. Two nights later, the Tigers upended Manhattan, 85-73, then slipped past St. Bonaventure, 80-78, on a last second shot. In the title game against Bradley, Wilfong scored 31 points and was named MVP The Tigers, however, lost the game, 84-83.
Also in 1957, Wilfong became The U of M's first-ever first team All-American when he was named to the Converse first team All-American squad. In 1956, he was honored by United Press International as an honorable mention All-American.
Nicknamed "Big John", the late John Gunn was a valiant young man who won the hearts and genuine admiration of all. He was courageous, competitive and a winner. Gunn played on Wayne Yates coached teams from 1974 to 1976.
As a freshman, Gunn averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds a game and played a big factor in The University of Memphis' impressive 20-7 record that included a trip to the NIT. That year his teammates voted him "Mr. Hustle". As a sophomore, the 6-9 Gunn averaged 10 points and eight rebounds. His career-high game was 25 points as a freshman against Buffalo State, but his best game was against Louisville his sophomore year in the Metro Tournament when he scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots.
A tragic event then struck the Tiger basketball program at the start of the 1976-77 season. After just three games, Gunn was taken ill with a rare disease - Stevens-Johnson Syndrome - and admitted to the hospital. Ten days later on December 21, Gunn was pronounced dead at the age of 21 due to complications of the disease.
Gunn attended Melrose High School where he played for Coach Verties Sails. His senior year at Melrose, along with Tiger teammates Alvin Wright and James Bradley, the Wildcats were undefeated and won the Tennessee State Championship with a 35-0 record. That same year, Gunn was chosen as one of the five best basketball prospects in the nation and was voted the Tennessee Player of the Year.
When you think of The University of Memphis basketball, you immediately think of Larry Finch. The legendary player, assistant coach and former head coach was synonymous with Tiger basketball for 25 years. Finch's jersey was retired on Nov. 30, 1974.
Finch, who competed in over 500 games as a Tiger player and coach combined, ranks third behind former Tiger stars Keith Lee and Elliot Perry on The University of Memphis all-time scoring list with 1,869 points. Finch was the catalyst in The University of Memphis reaching the NCAA Final Four for the first time ever in 1973, when the Tigers lost to UCLA and Bill Walton in the national finals. During the '73 tournament, Finch averaged 26.8 points a game, including 29 against the Bruins.
In Finch's three years at The University of Memphis, the Tigers put together a record of 63-21 and either won or tied for two Missouri Valley Conference Championships. He earned honorable mention All-American honors from both the Associated Press and United Press International and was named to four other All-American teams his senior season after breaking nine individual The U of M records. Finch was also the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year two years in a row.
Finch, who holds the record for most points scored in a game at The U of M, is still ranked in the top five in 18 different statistical categories.
One of the best rebounders in Tiger history, Ronnie "Big Cat" Robinson teammed with Larry Finch to lead The University of Memphis to the 1973 Final Four. Robinson played on the varsity team from 1970 to 1973 under coach Gene Bartow.
Robinson, a Tiger All-American, came to The University of Memphis from Melrose High School with his life-long friend and teammate Finch. Together they rewrote the The U of M basketball record book and led the team to its finest moment. In The U of M's run to the title game against UCLA, Robinson averaged 14.0 rebounds a game and had three double-doubles in the Tigers' four tournament outings. He pulled down 17 boards against South Carolina, 16 versus Kansas State and Providence, and seven in the loss to the Bruins.
Robinson was a three-year starter, who worked as both a center and forward. He averaged in double figures in both scoring and rebounding throughout his career and still holds the distinction of being the one of only two Tigers to have scored 1,000 points and have 1,000 rebounds.
Against Tulsa in 1971, Robinson scored a career-high 30 points and, ironically, set the school rebounding record in the same game with 28.
Robinson had three other games in his career in which he collected 24 caroms. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection, was named to the Vanderbilt Classic and Sun Bowl All-Tournament teams and received All-America honors (Converse and Basketball News) as a senior. Robinson still holds the school record for highest field goal percentage in a career (57.7) and is the second all-time leading rebounder with 1,066. As a junior, Robinson finished ninth in the nation in field goal percentage.
Robinson, who stands 19th on The University of Memphis' all-time scoring list with 1,150 points, was drafted in the fourth round of the NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns in 1973, but ended up signing with the Memphis Tams of the ABA.
Prior to the arrival of Anfernee Hardaway, Keith Lee was considered the best to have ever donned the Blue and Gray. Lee, who gave the Tigers instant success, played on The U of M teams from 1981 to 1985.
Lee, however, was arguably the most successful Tiger. During his four years, Memphis compiled a 104-24 (.813) record, made four straight NCAA appearances, including one Final Four, guided the Tigers to three Metro Conference tournament titles, led Memphis to a school record 31 wins in 1984-85 and helped put the Tigers in the final AP Top 20 poll all four seasons. The U of M was rated fifth in 1985.
As for his individual accomplishments, Lee was an AP All-American four years in a row, a consensus first team All-American in 1985, the Metro Conference Player of the Year in 1982 and 1985, the Metro Conference Tournament MVP in 1982 and 1984, the Metro Conference Freshman of the Year in 1982 and was first team All-Metro all four years. Also during his career, Lee was chosen to All-America teams by UPI, Converse, The Sporting News, Basketball Weekly, USBWA, Basketball Times, ESPN and NABC.
The 6-11 center's finest year was 1984-85 when he put the Tigers into the Final Four at Lexington, Ky. Lee led the Tigers to a 24-3 regular season record and a Metro Conference Tournament title.
Following his senior season, Lee was taken in the first round of the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls as the 11th overall pick.
Elliot Perry, who is The University of Memphis second all-time leading scorer, was one of the finest point guards to ever play for the Tigers.
The 6-0, 150-pound Perry, led the Tigers to four straight postseason tournaments and 76 wins. Perry, who played and started every game of his career, paced the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals three years in a row.
Coming out of Treadwell High School, Perry was rated one of the best players in the country. His senior year, Perry averaged 34.5 points a game and was named the Tennessee State Player of the Year and was tabbed a McDonald's All-American.
He didn't let up as a Tiger either. In his freshman season, Perry put the team on his shoulders and led them to a 20-12 record and an NCAA bid. That year, Perry was named Metro Conference Freshman of the Year and was considered the top freshman point guard in the country by Sport Magazine.
In Perry's senior season, the little guy led the Metro Conference in scoring with a 20.8 per game average and steals with 85. Perry was voted first team All-Metro Conference and finished second in the player of the year tabulation. Perry also became MSU's and the Metro Conference's career leader in steals with 300 and became just the tenth player in NCAA history to collect as many. He also hit game-winning buzzer shots against Florida State and Miami and hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the East Tennessee game into overtime. Against ETSU, Perry scored a career-high 42 points.
For his career, Perry is the Tigers' career leader in three-pointers made (143) and steals (304) and is ranked in the top 10 in 29 different statistical categories.
Perry's number 34 jersey was retired in February of 1992.
The most electrifying player in Tiger history, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway became the seventh player to have his jersey retired when The University of Memphis honored him on January 23, 1994.
Hardaway, who is now starring for the Orlando Magic, enjoyed a fabulous two seasons with the Tigers by leading them to two straight NCAA appearances, including an Elite Eight showing in 1992. For his career, Hardaway guided the Tigers to a 43-23 record (.652), eight wins over nationally-ranked teams, recorded the school's first-ever triple-doubles, became the 10th leading all-time scorer and set numerous other records in just 66 games.
The people who were fortunate enough to see the consensus All-American and two-time GMC Player of the Year should cherish that moment forever. He could do it all on the basketball court, score, pass, rebound, block shots, collect timely steals and bring a crowd to its feet with electrifying slam dunks. Hardaway also had the ability to make at least one play every game that would leave an entire crowd, at home or on the road, shaking their heads in total amazement. He was truly a special player.
On January 14, 1995, the University of Memphis recognized former Tiger great Forest Arnold by retiring his jersey number 13 in pregame ceremonies.
Arnold, who played for the Tigers from 1952-56, was the first-ever All-American in school history. During his career, Arnold helped lead the Tigers to 62 wins, including the school's first-ever NCAA appearance in 1955 against Penn State.
Arnold is the school's fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,854 career points and ranks as Memphis's second career rebounding leader with 1,109. Arnold is one of just three players in Memphis basketball history to score more than 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds.
One of many highlights during his sterling career, was a school record (at the time) 46-point game against Hardin-Simmons in the old Field House.
Arnold currently resides in Springfield, Mo., with his wife Virginia Lee. The couple has four children. Arnold is a minister and professor at Central Bible College in Springfield.