The Playmaker

A Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and one of the most animated NFL analysts on TV today, Michael Irvin was once a two-sport HS star whose love for hoops remains strong.

In March, Irvin dropped by the SLAM Dome to talk about his role in Slamma Jamma, the 1992 Foot Locker Slam Fest, the Dallas Hoopsters, balling with Mitch Richmond as a kid in Florida and more.

SLAM: Did you play basketball in high school?

Michael Irvin: I played at St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) and I went down to the Beach Ball Classic, where guys like Kenny Anderson were playing, and took home MVP, broke rebounding records and was the leading scorer. I was physical—the way I played football was the way I played basketball. I almost went to Indiana to play football and basketball. Lorenzo White and I—he played for the Oilers—we went up to IU for a skills camp in high school. The camp went well and then we went and played basketball. I remember I came down and dunked on Uwe Blab, who was a center on the hoops team. I thought I was going to play both sports at Indiana. It was a tossup for a while.

SLAM: You and Mitch Richmond know each other from way back, right?

MI: When we were kids, we used to travel around all the time and challenge all the brothers in the hood. They were putting up beers, [and] we would put up our milk or something and we would beat them down! I would be talking trash and Mitch used to calm me down.

SLAM: You, Mike Conley Sr, Barry Bonds, Tim Brown, Deion Sanders and Ken Griffey Jr were in the 1992 Foot Locker Slam Fest. What was it like?

MI: I don’t know why they stopped doing that. I lost to Mike Conley in the Finals and the prize was $50,000. Deion was saying to me, Mike, you better let that track and field dude win. You know they’re not making no $50,000! I was like, That’s a lot of money, what are you talking about? That’s a lot of money for a few dunks!

SLAM: Did the Cowboys play any pickup?

MI: I used to run the Dallas Cowboys Hoopsters. It was myself, Emmitt Smith and a few others and we would play staffs from police departments or radio stations. We had a great squad. Larry Allen was a monster! One day, Larry—this dude is 360 pounds—he went off both feet and dunked and took the whole hoop down. He cut his head and was bleeding everywhere! I took the hoop off his head and told him to talk to the trainer. He kept asking, What are we going to do about the rim?

SLAM: Were you friendly with any Mavs?

MI: Derek Harper was a good friend—he was from Florida, too. Derek was so good growing up. They used to call him “Wop.” I was like, what kind of nickname is “Wop?” And then at the gym, he would pull up and the whole gym would go “Wop!” and the ball would hit nothing but net.

SLAM: What about Dallas owner Mark Cuban? Do you know him at all?

MI: Mark is always messing with me because I had my company PCN, Players Communication Network, and I remember Mark walking in the building and he offered us a percentage of to join my company. We should have taken it, but I had people telling me to hold out for more. We never got more. Now when I see him, he’s like, “Michael, you know what your take would have been?” I like Mark and yeah he’s eccentric, but I like that [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones and Mark have that quality about them.

SLAM: Tell us how you got involved in the movie Slamma Jamma [out now!—Ed.]?

MI: I read the script and I loved it. The movie is about a player who gets arrested, goes to jail and tries to get his life back. I’m telling you, I escaped that fate by the hair of my chin. Fortunately I didn’t go to prison. It’s a story of redemption surrounded by some of the greatest athletes and dunkers I’ve ever seen.

Peter Walsh is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @Peter_M_Walsh.

Photo via AP Photo/Paul Spinelli