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NBA (and D-League) Champion James Michael McAdoo Discusses The Keys To His Success

Following an unique season in which James Michael McAdoo made history, the NBA forward called initially signing in the D-League the "best thing to happen" in his career. Here's why.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Six months ago, casual NBA fans may not have known who James Michael McAdoo was. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015, and he'll forever (at the very least) be a footnote in the history books.

After starting the season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, McAdoo was called up to the NBA shortly after the new year began. As fate would have it, he joined the minor league affiliate's NBA parent club in Golden State, with whom he initially spent Summer League and training camp before that.

Having averaged 19.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals through 33 D-League contests, McAdoo returned, on assignment from the big league Warriors, to help Santa Cruz secure its very first championship. Less than two months later, he was crowned a champion once again when Golden State went the distance and defeated the Cavaliers in this year's NBA Finals.

As a result, McAdoo, in a sense, is a two-time champion, despite just recently putting the finishing touches on his rookie campaign.

After appearing in fifteen regular season contests after joining Golden State, the young McAdoo even made a cameo in game four of The Finals.

"It was really surreal. I put a lot of hard work in. To be able to actually get out there, grab a rebound, and kind of get my name on the stat-sheet is something that I'll never forget. It gave me a taste of what it's like. I'm able to witness the NBA Finals and understand what it means to be a part of it," he told "To be able to do that in my first year, I think that'll really help me shape my work ethic and my professional career. It helps me understand what I need to accomplish, not only as an individual, but also part of a team."

After an unforgettable rookie campaign, McAdoo is going to look to build on this recent success.

"I think the biggest thing has been trying to use this as motivation. After experiencing this in my first year, I want to use it as a trampoline for next year. I've been getting ready for Summer League and trying to focus and lock in," the 22 year old explained. "Being on the best team in the league, I look at my ability and the opportunity I have in front of me. I want to take advantage of it."

The ironic thing, is that, although Golden State is currently led by two of the game's biggest and brightest stars in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the contender is obviously still a team that is committed to the development (and integration) of younger players. There's opportunity for any number of players to step up and contribute, including McAdoo and his fellow bench mate, Justin Holiday, who (perhaps unexpectedly) made the team out of training camp last fall.

"I think it's huge. I saw Justin and how hard he worked. He stayed on the team. Obviously there was a chance for him to not only make the roster, but play significant minutes," McAdoo added. "To be able to practice, workout, and play against the best talent in the league also presents me with an opportunity to carve out my own minutes and break into the rotation. At the end of the day, I want to help the Warriors win ball games."

With all of this mind, what has he been working on since arriving to the NBA?

"I've just been trying to refine my offensive game. Being athletic, being a guy who can run the floor and do certain things on the defensive end --- those are all things that I'll continue to work on. I'll hang my hat on those things, but improving my offensive game is something I need to work on if I'm going to stay in the NBA and really get the best out of my abilities. The stuff that I work on with Ron Adams really centers around that," he pointed out. "We work on my low-post game and being able to finish above the rim, my moves down there, and my shot. My shot is something I need to improve, but I'm taking the time necessary to work on it."

The future is exceptionally bright for McAdoo. Already a proven winner, he's accomplished quite an unique feat by winning championships in both leagues in the same season --- it's an achievement not many others are likely to match, especially not in the near future. He's level-headed, mature, and dedicated as ever to his respective craft. While he's surely enjoying the glory that comes along with being a champion, he's doing so, all the while, also giving back to the fans that supported him all year long. Remaining in California, he recently had his first public autograph signing. On Tuesday, he returned to his initial stomping grounds in Santa Cruz to speak with kids participating in the Warriors' basketball camp.

Nevertheless, at the blink of an eye, McAdoo has almost instantly become yet another promising poster child for the NBA D-League. It's been an interesting journey for him thus far, one that even he himself may not have expected to play out the way it has. Still, he chose to embrace it, and now appears grateful things turned out the way they did. He even went as far as calling [playing in the D-League] the best decision he's made.

"I'm not going to sugar code it. I remember watching back in college and seeing guys that I knew turn up in the D-League. I probably sat back and made fun of the league itself. To be in the position I am now, where the D-League presented me with such an opportunity, I should be thanking my agent," McAdoo revealed. "We had an opportunity to go to Summer League with Golden State. He knew that going down to Santa Cruz was a real possibility if I didn't get selected to make the team after training camp."

"After experiencing the D-League, people call me crazy, but it was the most fun and satisfying season I've ever had. Coming in, being able to play with such great talent and a great coaching staff --- we had great people in the front office, too. They made everything so easy. All we, as players, had to focus on was developing. That's what the league is all about. I think it was huge for me," he said. "When I got cut, [Warriors' Assistant General Manager Kirk Lacob] told me that if I went down to the D-League and dominated, someone would call me up. Hopefully it would be them. And it was. Personally, this was best thing to happen in my career. I can honestly say that."