In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, who are the five best Irish basketball players to suck down a green beer and play in the NBA? The list is short, drunk, and VERY pale.
The only Irish player in history born and bred in Ireland to play in the NBA was Pat Burke, a 6-11 center who spent three years with the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns.
Insert him into this list wherever you like, there is room “O’plenty.”
You could also add Rick Barry to this O’list as you please.
6. Pat Connaughton
Pat Connaughton just won an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks. A former basketball and baseball player for the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Connaughton is Irish AF.
Connaughton played the best basketball of his professional career in the 2021 NBA Finals.
5. Marty Conlon
Conlon was a 6-10 lumbering big man who specialized in…uh…being big. And Irish, in that order.
In nine NBA seasons he played for eight teams, including the Boston Celtics who as a franchise, have always had an affinity for large, slow, white men (Brian Sclabrine types). Conlon also had an extremely weird form when shooting free throws.
4. Chris Mullin
Without a doubt, the best Irish shooter in NBA history was Chris Mullin. Not only that, but he was probably the best pure scorer as well.
“Mullie” averaged 25+ ppg in five straight seasons from ’88-’89 to ’92-’93. Check out these highlights from when he went head to head with the greatest non-Irish basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan:
3. Kevin McHale
McHale averaged 17.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg in a 13-year career where he never scored less than 10.0 ppg in any season. The king of the up and under move in and around the basket, on either side of the Atlantic. And, inspired that old guy at your local YMCA that kills your ass with that move every single time.
2. Jermaine O’Neal
O’Neal has made the 12th most money of any NBA player ever in terms of NBA salary, raking in $165,441,840 during his pro career. That’s not exactly a “small potato”. Nor does it have an “e” at the end, as former Vice President of the USA Dan Quayle suggested to a Trenton, NJ sixth grader William Figueroa on June 15th, 1992.
The Irish may not have produced a lot of NBA talent, but financially, the two O’Neal’s are set for life.
Combine Jermaine’s $165,441,840 with Shaq’s $292,198,327 and you’ve got $457,640,167 million, which is actually about $100 million less than what Lord of the Dance stud dancer Michael Flatley has made in his career, and I don’t think he can dunk.
Even if you don’t think Shaq is the best Irish basketball player of all-time, he is at least the best Irish center ever.