If you’re too young to remember Streetball Ireland, you need to read this. If you are old enough, come reminisce with us…
One of our co-founders, Niall McDermott, is an expert trash talker. And, due to his hard-to-understand Derry accent, he was normally more effective online (when people could actually make out what he was trying to say). When we were deciding how we wanted to improve our new site, having a Forum was one of our top priorities. We want more people in Irish basketball to have a voice, to share their thoughts, and join the debate.
Much of our inspiration dates back to the days of Streetball Ireland, which was founded in 2004. Their goal was to cover Streetball and up and coming players in Ireland. We reached out to Ciaran to ask him to tell us the story of Streetball Ireland; he kindly accepted our invitation. But, to get you excited, check out this awesomely ancient (2006) video of a group of English ballers visiting Ireland to compete in a Streetball pick-up game and Dunk competition, all to raise money for local Charity, Brainwave! See if you recognize any young Irish ballers…
Founder of Streetball Ireland, Ciaran Bowe:
During the late 1990s and early 2000s (thanks to the And1 1 mixtape) street ball took off. Every young basketball player was decked out in And1 and working on their crossover. I always found this side of the sport fascinating but I was less into the And1 side. It was more the likes of the EBC at Rucker park where the games were flashy but competitive and the players, while exciting to watch, were serious players. During this period, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, all played in the EBC.
When I started college in 2000 the internet was just getting big. As I was doing Arts, I had a lot of time on my hands. One of my teammates recommended streetball.co.uk. At the time, I thought the site was amazing; it featured players and videos (some you can still find on YouTube). What set the site apart was being London-based rather than American. You could relate a little more to it and the players while flashy were serious basketball players unlike other streetball sites at the time, such as the notic. I used to spend a huge amount of time browsing it and the forums. There was a couple of Irish guys on there too.
In 2003/2004 I started a HDip in IT (it was the cheapest postgraduate course in Maynooth!). One of the modules was web design, which was a hell of a lot more basic then than it is now. I set up a website for the basketball club in the college, which I enjoyed. I also put up a forum which gave me some experience.
The 2004 Varsities in Trinity was the last one I played in and the Final was an epic game. Queens with Stephen Dawson (‘Dawsy’), Fergal Toner, and a superb Spanish point guard versus UCD who had Kevin Meany, Kev Foley, and a ton of scholarship players. I thought there is no way for people to see this and this is what Irish basketball is about; young exciting players playing an uptempo high scoring game without a reliance on Americans. This was the sort of basketball streetball.co.uk showcased.
When I went back, I went about setting up a site more as a project and not thinking anything more of it. I registered the domain streetballireland.tk and eventually coughed up the €13 to be streetballireland.com. I first filmed some basketball in Diamond Park in Dublin on a digital camera. I got two plays from it: a dunk by Phil Taylor and a crossover by John Biggins and that was the first video only 30 seconds long and barley visible.
Shortly after this I set up the message board, slowly and surely, word spread and some activity started on the site. People began to realise there was place you could discuss Irish basketball with real fans and people involved in the game. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) gave me a Christmas present of a Sony Handy cam. I finally had a way of producing videos that I could upload to the site and bring it to life!
The players page, which started with guys I knew like Phil Taylor, Conor Ahenert and Brian O Malley, started getting requests that guys wanted to be added. Through meeting people across the basketball community, guys like Ian O’Boyle, Paul Cummins, Niall and Dave Murphy, the Westbrooks brothers, Jago (both little and big bro), Neil Campbell, Scottie Summersgill, many others all began to get involved.
Inspired by streetball.co.uk’s Street all Stars Games, I decided to hold an All Star Game and Dunk contest to showcase these guys and their talent in 2005 (they may be veterans now but they were the up and coming talent then). I wasn’t sure if all the players would show up never mind any supporters! I just hoped enough would show up to cover the € 100 to rent the Oblates for two hours. I chanced my arm and Kevin Fox from KTR enterprises, who distributed AND1 at the time, sponsored two sets of gear. As it went so well, he went on to sponsor games in 2006 and 2007, both of which raised funds for the charity Brainwave. We got a good crowd and it was a good game. Paul Cummins won the dunk contest and everybody had a great day. It was something that hadn’t really been done in Ireland before. I did two videos and I was hyped to make the site a success.
Following that, I began to put up more videos. We put streetballireland.com teams into tournaments and 3v3s and generally had a great laugh at all the events. People will remember Timi Martins and the XYNZ and SBN tournaments, travelling to Galway and Belfast. The videos were decent and in the direction I wanted, full of highlights but guys who could really play! We didn’t have guys carrying the ball while making a show of some 13 year old who didn’t play basketball.
By 2006, the site really took off! The forum was really busy and while there was some acting the ejit, most people respected it and shared their views. I put a bigger push on for the 2006 All Star Game and it really took off. I promoted it as hard as I could. Christian Manzanza flew in from Belgium as he wanted to participate. Jermaine Turner and Kenny McFarland (two really cool guys) took part. The game and the dunk contest were insane. I can honestly say it was the most entertaining basketball event to take place on this Island.
There was a highlight almost every 30 seconds. The dunk contest between Manzanza and Turner was as good as you would see anywhere in the world. Either player could have deserved to win it but Jermaine piped it. When Manzanza jumper over a crouched Simon Flynn, Jermaine responded by jumping over 6’8” big Shane standing up.
To me, this was when the site was at its best. We had a great group of young guys involved and the forum was a great place to discuss basketball. It showed how seriously people took the site when head coach of the Irish National team at the time, Greg Gurr, registered and posted to discuss the National Team. Irish fans including myself had been unhappy with the performances of the National team under his stewardship. There was a thread criticizing him and his management of the team. He then registered and posted on the site trying to defend himself. He ended up posting a few times in the thread.
In 2006/2007, guys like Ben Bridges, J – Reed, Kevin young got involved. During this time, nearly all Superleague players and coaches were using the site. I set up sections to track Irish players in US colleges and players looking to work in Ireland. Bride from Dealta/Hoops was always very good in letting us film games.
Bride is somebody who doesn’t get credit for what she has done (cup wins Denny/Big Als school programme). This is somebody who put her life and her money into running and keeping a club afloat – both when it was successful and when it struggled. I never thought she got the respect she deserved. People like Bride, the Meany Family, the Donnellys, Paul Molloy and Natasha Moore from my club, Dublin Lions, and countless other volunteers are the people that give up all their time to keep the game together in Ireland and deserve recognition for it.
Going into 2007, the site was still going strong. For the 2007 All Star Game, I managed to organise Tom “Con Man” Connors to come across with the lads from street ball extreme to fly over and take part (video at top of post). Again, the game was excellent and they were taken a back by the standard. They told me it was far higher than anything else they took part in that year.
The game became one of the highlights of their DVD, Streetball Extreme X Up. I kept in touch with Tom until only a few years ago and fair play to him, he went on to make a living from his site. He now runs SBX as an urban entertainment group. For me a highlight was when Tayo, formerly of streetball.co.uk, came over. This was one of the guys I used to watch in 2000 on the streetball.co.uk videos and 6 years later here he was, travelling over to take part in an event which I was organising. All those guys were cool as hell. At the time I remember them being shocked when I told them they had to wear shoes out in Dublin as you wouldn’t get into most pus and clubs with trainers at the time.
Although this was a great event the crowd was very poor; this really disappointed me. I had promised the streetball.co.uk guys a good crowd and I felt let down with the low turnout. To be honest, I was a little embarrassed. This was the reason that it was the last All Star game. The site continued into 2008 but at this stage I had changed jobs and didn’t relay have as much time to give it [Editor: We hear you!]
I was 26 at the time, so the guys I knew were no longer the up and coming guys. These were a younger generation and I felt I was falling out of touch with this. I removed the front page of the site and left the forum up but I was no longer really giving it any time – it petered out.
Looking back, if I had of developed the site further, and kept it moving, I could have kept in going. But unfortunately life can get in the way of these things. I did sometimes think of changing the format and resurrecting it but before I could Ireland, the economy and Irish Basketball took a bad turn. In Kieran Shannon’s book, Hanging from the Rafters, he mentions his watershed moment of sadness in Irish basketball. It was a game in the Arena between Demons and Hoops. The arena should have been packed to see the best Irish player of his generation (and possibly ever) Colin O Reilly play against hoops.
There was only about 40 people there. I was one of those 40 and I remember it clearly. From packed games of the National team in playoffs for the European championship; great cup weekends of games with Star and Demons in ’99; the dunk fest when Cleotis Brown and BJ McFarland won the cup for Limerick… all the way to watching a game with more people on the court than in the stand. Basketball, as far I could see was a lost cause, that was the last Superleague game I have been to. Seeing how far the sport had fallen was too sad to watch anymore.
There is, of course, a glimmer of hope. The game does seem to be returning here but there is a lot of work to be done. We need a full range of National teams including senior men’s and women’s. We need kindergartens and academies to introduce players to the game before they’re lured to soccer, GAA and rugby.
Ireland is a cold wet country; this is an indoor sport… it isn’t tough to sell.
While I have the utmost respect for clubs like Ballon, and what they have achieved, I would prefer to see non-Irish players playing with existing clubs. I’d like to see foreign nationals welcomed with open arms into the community rather than setting up clubs and playing together. We could all benefit from their talent and view on the game in Europe. It can bring a fresh approach to our game. I have made friends from all over the world playing basketball and I think Basketball inclusiveness is one of the sports great strengths in Ireland. We need to fully capitalise on this.
There are still a lot of good people involved with the game in Ireland. Hopefully, these individuals can steer it in the right direction and give us a sport we can be proud of. I feel a bit of regret to have let the site peter out the way it did in the end. That being said, I had a lot of great years running it and got to meet a lot of great basketball players and people through it. I still see people quoting streetballireland.com superleague awards on their basketball CV, which is nice to see. There were some great opportunities too I wish I had of pulled off… like Spyda from AND1 contacting me to try and play here with his new team… and being invited to a European Streetball Competition in Latvia.
I was delighted to see this years Cup Finals sell out. Hopefully, this is a sign the sport is back on the correct path. I was delighted when Tony asked me to write this as it’s good to know the site was something people remember and enjoy. Dave Murphy only mailed me recently saying how much fun it used to be. It was sad to realise I’ve lost a lot of old footage off the server but it was great to look back at the content that was still there.
It was great while it lasted. The only regret I have is working on a basketball site when I should have been working on inventing Facebook or YouTube! You never know… if I’d done that, I could have my own NBA team now like Mark Cuban!
When I let my site go, I did watch out hoping something would come in and take its place which had a focus on Irish basketball and not just the Superleague. The Courtside Collective has stepped into that space and it is ran by guys who love the game. They’ve brought a fresh take on reporting Irish basketball. It’s the best place to read about basketball in Ireland. With the launch of their new forum, there is now a place for the basketball community to talk about our game in Ireland. It’s great to see the Streetball Ireland legacy being carried in the right way.