If you hear someone talking about “Ballers” in Ireland you’d assume it’s Robbie Keane or Damian Duff, not Jasper Mcilroy or Mario Elie. Those are just two of the star players from the golden era of basketball in Ireland that captured the imagination of people across the country.
In 1984 basketball’s cultural revolution was about to unfold. Michael Jordan had just been drafted as the third pick into the NBA and on the other side of the Atlantic Ireland was taking notice.
Not wanting to lag behind, Dublin’s Killester picked up Mario Elie and he played his trade in Ireland before later playing for the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers and a host of other teams. He won back to back NBA titles with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995.
Similarly Dave Hopla, who is widely regarded as one of the best shooters on the planet played for Belfast’s St. Galls before heading back to the states to work as a shooting coach for the New York Knicks.
Dave Hopla also holds the world record for hitting 18 NBA 3-Pointers in 1 minute with 1 ball and 1 passer.
Those are just a few examples of a number of hugely talented players that became part of a golden generation in Ireland as Jordan was making his way to be the biggest star in NBA history.
In ‘We Got Game’ archival footage, a number of interviews and key photography piece together a fascinating picture as to what happens when black America and small town Ireland collide.
With eight of the 20 Americans playing in Ireland at the time having been included in the NBA draft it meant Ireland arguably had a number of the best college players from America gliding across its courts.
The journey meanders through the basketball outposts of Cork and Kerry right to the heartlands of the game, the USA.