STA, 28 March 2019 - A large number of Slovenian fans have flown to Miami to experience Thursday's long-awaited game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat featuring a face-off between the country's most popular basketball players and former national team members, Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić.
Miami has welcomed reportedly more than 2,000 Slovenian basketball enthusiasts, forming the largest national "exodus" to the US for a sports event.
All of them have high expectations for the match with the majority rooting for Dragić's home team to win and Dončić to deliver another excellent performance.
The Miami Heat are still in play for the play-offs and will be going for a win tonight, while the Mavericks are in for playing a "spoiler" with their team being second to last in the Western Conference and therefore having zero chance to qualify.
The game will mark the first time the two players will meet after playing together for the national team and winning the EuroBasket in September 2017. Dragić was still recovering from a knee injury during the previous match between the two teams.
The Mavericks' star Dončić is very likely to win the 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year award, especially if he dominates the next few matches in his usual style. Both him and Dragić are double-digit scorers who have been keeping fans entertained with attractive moves and the rivalry between them suggests a great game ahead.
"We've arrived on the wings of euphoria. What Dončić's doing is crazy, and Dragić is obviously old-school. We've come to cheer and let the best man win," said one of the Slovenian fans.
They all want Dragić's team to clinch a play-off spot and Dončić to score another triple-double, but most importantly they will cheer for Slovenia as the country is displaying its talent in the world's strongest basketball league.
Fulfilling the goal of winning the EuroBasket, the 32-year-old Dragić has retired from playing for the national team but remains one of the nation's favourite, while the 20-year-old Dončić has already made a name for himself across in the US.
The fans have been hanging out at Rakija Lounge bar in South Beach, enjoying familiar beverages and food from the Balkans. The bar's owners, migrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, are hosting a Slovenian night before the game, presenting the country's wines and food.
The large number of Slovenian supporters has also attracted the attention of the American media. The ESPN channel will prepare a special clip about them near the American Airlines Arena before the game.
The event will therefore serve as an opportunity for a specific cultural exchange as well as celebration of the two Slovenian stars.