It's 2:00am. The only sounds you can hear are the pounding of the ball against the hardwood and the imaginary screams of adoring fans as you bring the ball up with your team down one point in game seven of the NBA Finals. The other team has plans of doubling you but that doesn't even matter, you dribble right, pull up and...splash.
Few receive the opportunity to hit, or even take, a game-winning shot for a team, let alone an NBA team in the Finals, but for the millions of kids growing up, that's the ultimate dream. It's not difficult to relate to the hard work and dedication one puts into their craft, but few have the will and drive to do whatever it takes to make that late-night dream become a reality.
Mike James happens to be one of the few. James starred at Lamar University for two years, however ultimately went undrafted when the 2012 NBA Draft rolled around. The dream didn't stop there; the road was merely altered to another destination first. Since that day, Mike has been stellar no matter where he has played. His journey began in Croatia where he excelled for KK Zagreb, which led to him signing with Hapoel Kazrin in Israel midway through his rookie season. He spent of all the 2013-14 season in Italy with Omegna averaging 22.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists with splits of 49/35/78 earning himself the League MVP Award at season's end.
The 2014-15 season began and James found himself in yet another new country, and this time it was Greece. The team was Kolossos Rodou of the Greek A1 league. In the opening game of the year, he flirted with a triple-double going for 26 points, eight rebounds and nine assists against Panionios. Through eight games James averaged 21 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists for Kolossos and unfortunately for his Greek team he was lured away by an even bigger opportunity.
Enter, the Euroleague -- the top competition of international basketball -- and Laboral Kutxa was the team that came calling. So, off to Spain Mike went and he's since played three games with his new team. Ridiculous Upside sat down and talked to Mike about Greece, Euroleague, Twitter, videogames, and of course the NBA.
Ridiculous Upside: I know it was short-lived, but can you describe your time in Greece playing for Kolossos?
Mike James:, It was a lot of fun. It was great competition and that league has a ton of respect. I will definitely miss the players more than anything else.
RU: What was the most memorable moment for you from your time in Greece?
MJ: I would say playing against Olympiacos and (Vassilis) Spanoulis. He has a lot of respect from everyone so I would say that was the most fun I had in Greece. [note: James had 28 points that game but Olympiacos won]
RU: What's the main difference you have seen so far, between Greece and the Euroleague? What do you see as your role for Laboral Kutxa moving forward?
MJ: It's a higher level of competition here and I will have a different role on this team. My job is to bring energy on both ends of the court and I know the minutes will still be there for me, so I can't get down I just need to play hard and the rest will come. My coach has already talked to me about being too passive which usually isn't a problem for me because I've always been the main guy on any team I've played on.
RU: Have you talked to any of your new teammates about the NBA and what it takes to make it there? I know Sasha Vujacic is on your team now and he has a lot of NBA experience.
MJ: Yeah, I mean we talk a little bit about the NBA but not much about "what it takes" specifically. I think it takes exposure for a lot of guys and that's what I'm hoping to get here. I did just go to lunch with Sasha today though (laughs).
RU: Given the recent expansion and increase of NBA call-ups, was the NBA D-League ever a consideration for you?
MJ: No, not really. We thought about it a little bit during my rookie year but that's a high risk, high reward move. It's hard when you have family to take care of to take that lower pay when the international game offers more and now that I'm with the Euroleague I'm hoping my high level of play will earn me a full contract in the NBA and not just a 10-day call-up.
RU: Who did you pattern your game after growing up?
MJ: In high school I didn't try to play like anybody else, I just kinda played. When I got to college it was definitely Deron Williams. I watch tape of him and I still steal a lot of his stuff, he's just been one of my favorite players for a long time now.
RU: What do you do to pass the time when you aren't playing games, traveling or practicing?
MJ: I play a lot of videogames man. Some guys write raps, some guys read, but I play videogames. I put out tweets to play people online and I get a lot requests when I do that, so it's fun.
RU: This past summer you played in the Seattle Pro-Am with Jamal Crawford. How was that experience?
MJ: It's a really fun summer event and I really like that it's for the community. It's also a chance to play real games during the summer and I'll go every summer as long as they want me there, I'll play.
RU: What was sort of the marquee moment of the summer for that event?
MJ: I would say the midnight game. I was in Portland and didn't get a text for that game until like 7pm but I'm glad I went up because the atmosphere was crazy. Also, we had the first all-Portland team in the league's history so that was cool to play with those guys from my hometown too.
RU: So, what is the ultimate goal for you? Some guys are fine with playing professionally overseas their entire career. Are you?
MJ: The NBA is a dream of mine and has been for as long as I can remember. I would definitely leave the international game if I had the chance. It would be great to still play pro and live closer to my family and friends.
RU: If you get an invite to play in the NBA Summer League, is that something you would entertain?
MJ: I would definitely go to either Orlando or Las Vegas for the summer league. That's even better than just a camp invite because every single NBA team has people there watching and it only takes one team to like you.
RU: Give us a parting comment, maybe something fans don't know about you.
MJ: I know I put down some nice dunks now, but I couldn't dunk until my senior year of high school. Also, Lamar University needs to go ahead and retire my jersey already!
Here are some highlights from Mike's time with Kolossos Rodou in the Greek A1 League.
**All stats shown were provided by the Eurobasket Official Site