On October 22 2017, Phoenix Suns star Point Guard, Eric Bledsoe, tweeted “I Dont wanna be here.” Instantly, this tweet sent twitter on fire. Many people began to analyze his tweet, coming up with all different solutions to what it actually meant. The tweet however, seemed pretty self explanatory. Eric Bledsoe doesn’t want to play basketball for the Phoenix Suns anymore. As harsh as it sounds, can you really blame the guy? Throughout his 5 years on the team he did not make the playoffs once and instead wound up sitting through one of the biggest messes ever. Basically, the Phoenix Suns wasted the prime of one of the more talented point guards of this generation and they owe it to him to allow him to go compete for a ring while he still can. At 27 years old, many people believe Bledsoe may still have better days ahead of him. These days however, will not come as long as he’s with the Phoenix Suns, which is why he needs to be traded A.S.A.P.
Many people saw this as just a classic Sun’s problem and assumed that in Bledsoe’s absence, the winless Sun’s would continue to struggle. This however didn’t happen, because on October 23rd, with Bledsoe suspended by the team, the Phoenix Suns secured their first win of the season with a 117-115 win against the Sacramento Kings. This win was overall a great team effort, however one player did stand out. This player surprisingly, was not one of the Sun’s big name young players, but instead was 27 year old rookie Mike James. Currently signed on the NBA’s newest type of a contract, a two-way contract, James started and led the Suns in place of Bledsoe. In 27 minutes of action, James scored 18 points while shooting a whopping 80% from the floor. James also dished out 7 assists and hit a game clinching layup over De’Aaron Fox as time wound down in the fourth quarter. Before this game, James was basically unknown, but after the game he had become a cult hero. Which basically raises the question, Who is Mike James?
Born in 1990, Mike James grew up in Portland, Oregon. He played basketball for Grant High School, where he averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals per game. These stats helped him get ranked as the 3rd best player in Portland and the 184th best player overall. This however, was not enough for James to get scouted by division 1 colleges, as he was seen as undersized and his reputation of being a trash talker didn’t help. In fact, his opportunity to attend Eastern Arizona College only came after the head coach coincidentally watched him play at an open gym.
Supposedly, James already had a friend going to Eastern Arizona and he was playing basketball against that friend when the Eastern Arizona coach saw him. Immediately after he finished, the coach walked up to James and offered him a full scholarship, which James accepted. In his two years with the junior college, James completely dominated the competition. In his freshman season, James averaged 20 points per game and according to rivals.com, he was the 40th best junior college player that year. The next year James was the 4th leading scorer in the NJCAA, averaging 26 points per game. These stats however, were not enough to be recruited by any big name schools and when his two years were up at Eastern Arizona, he decided to carry his basketball career over to Lamar University, a small D-1 school located in Texas.
Lamar University participates in the Southland conference, which is located in the South Central United States. In his first year with Lamar, James only started 2 games, but James still led the team in scoring averaging 12.5 points and roughly 18 minutes per game. HIs best game came against Louisiana College, in which James set the single game scoring record for Lamar University with 52 points. The next year, James averaged 17 points per game and led his team to the NCAA tournament. Although it was a short run, the fact that James made it to the tournament is a great accomplishment that should not be taken lightly. As his college career closed James looked for a career in the NBA, but could not find one, thus starting his long and tedious European journey.
From 2012 all the way up to this summer, James played for 6 different teams in Europe. He found much success there, winning a championship and a most spectacular player award. This year, he even had the opportunity to make millions, but he turned it all down just for a chance to fulfill his dream.
On July 3rd of this past summer, the Phoenix Suns decided to give James the chance of a lifetime and add him to their summer league roster. This was James’ second stint with the Sun’s summer league team and he made the most of his opportunity. James dominated, averaging 20.5 points, 5 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. These stats allowed James to be the first player to sign a two-way contract in Sun’s history. This means that James has 45 days to play for the Sun’s until his contract is up. Throughout the 45 games, James will earn roughly $204,000, which is severely less than what James would have made in Europe, but if James plays well in the NBA, he will receive a contract that is more lucrative than anything he can ever make in Europe.
So far this season, James has received minutes in every game. With Brandon Knight out for the season and Tyler Ulis starting the season hurt, the Suns had no other option, but to give James some playing time. James made the most of his minutes, making his season debut on October 18th and putting up 12 points. He then put up 13 and 10 points in his next two games, which helped him draw the start mentioned above against the Kings in his fourth game of the season. In this game, James became the first player in NBA history, to start a game while also being signed to a two-way contract.
Now, with Bledsoe on his way out, James looks to show the world he belongs in the NBA. Already an established scorer, one should bet on James to make a name for himself and find vast success in the league. He’s taken the long hard road from JUCO athlete to Europe, but he’s held a strong work ethic and mentality. Getting to the NBA was the hard part, now it’s time for Mike James to shine.