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Mike James: “I had to try the NBA, I played well in Phoenix”


The breakthrough in Mike James’s career? When Vitoria bought him out from the Kolossus Rhodes in Greece, and immediately took him to the EuroLeague. “It was not that surprising because I had already found interest, received some offers, but to leave my team I wanted the best situation and a big enough team. Obviously the Baskonia was all this – the best situation for me. What surprised me a little bit was how easy I fit,” he says. In Baskonia, Mike James reached the EuroLeague Final Four, a goal that he went close to achieve again, the following two years with Panathinaikos. “We didn’t know how good we were at the start of the season, we aimed to the playoffs and then see what we could do, but then we won a few road games, we beat some good teams and in the quarter-finals we immediately won the first game. That was when we said ok we could do somthing and so we went to the Final Four,” says James.

The last two years James established himself as one of the best point-man in Europe. At Panathinaikos he won two Greek titles and reached the playoffs twice, always beaten by the team that eventally won the EuroLeague. “Panathinaikos has been a blessing to me, and living in Athens was amazing, just for the history that surrounds you. Everyone wants to win, I did it twice in Athens, and we did what we could in EuroLeague, we had a couple of nice runs.”

But between the first and second year, James had the chance to finally play 32 NBA games with the Phoenix Suns scoring over ten points per game. “It was something I had to do, I felt I had to try. In my opinion I played well, I’m satisfied even if the way it ended was a little disappointing”. And that’s how he left Phoenix, with a brief spell in New Orleans, and returned to Athens to complete his Panathinaikos experience with another victory.

(2-to be continued)