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Let’s Remember Some Raptors: There goes the comet that was Mike James

In what stands out in perhaps one of the most singular seasons in NBA history, predating Kawhi’s turn in Toronto, Mike James joined the Raptors, tore it up for a year — and left. Let’s remember.

2005 NBA: Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets Photo by Robert Seale/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

For our next entry in the Let’s Remember Some Raptors series, it’s important to understand some historical context. As the start of the 2005-06 season, Toronto was less than a year removed from the Vince Carter trade and was clearly on the decline. The once ascendant franchise had begun to crumble in all aspects — both on the court and off. They did have rising star Chris Bosh, but also possessed more folk legends than actual winning players. As a result, the Raps went 27-55 that year, which was, surprisingly, not one of the five worst seasons in franchise history.

We could thank Bosh for that, the efforts of second-year coach Sam Mitchell, or the sudden appearance of all-time Raptors like Jose Calderon and Matt Bonner. Or we can acknowledge one of the greatest one-off seasons in Toronto history, one that predates the legend of Kawhi Leonard by over a decade.

Yes, I’m talking about Mike James.

His Raptors Run

Mike James came to the Raptors prior to the start of the 2005-06 season in a straight up trade for Rafer Alston. The baller known as Skip to My Lou had butted heads with coach Mitchell and was destined to be moved; meanwhile, Mike James was a 30-year-old journeyman point guard who had joined the league in 2001 as a 26-year-old undrafted free agent (in Miami). On paper, there wasn’t a ton of upside to be found in such a transaction (which is something that can be said of a lot of Raptors deals at the time — hi Bryan Colangelo!). Toronto just really needed a starting point guard.

So what did Mike James do when he got to Toronto? Simple: he looked around, saw that there were a lot of shots to be had, and decided to take as many of them as he could. Over 79 games as a Raptor, the man some still call the Amityville Scorer cracked the top 20 in the league for points per game (at 20.3, doubling his career average), while shooting 42 percent from the field, dishing 5.8 assists, and grabbing 3.3 rebounds per game. A full quarter (25 percent!) of Toronto’s possessions that season went through the hands of Mike James. The team didn’t win much, but don’t blame him. Mike James was doing what he could — and then some.

And when it was over, when the Raptors had been thoroughly defeated by the vagaries of the regular season, Mike James did the only sensible thing he could. He immediately signed the biggest contract he could find (with the Minnesota Timberwolves), which jumped his pay by two million bucks. Or, if you prefer a longer view: Mike James went from earning six figures in 2001 all the way to seven figures, in five years. That’s quite the raise.

Sadly, Mike James’ on-court production never reached those extreme levels again. But all in Toronto got to see that strange comet, that wild confluence of events, that brought us Mike James, league-leader.

The Wikipedia Fun-Fact Deep-Dive

For a guy with a big personality, Mike James’ Wikipedia page is pretty bland. Like many marginal NBA players, it simply records the various back-and-forths of his professional career. No shame in that, really — but it is kind of boring.

So instead of reporting on that, let’s use this section to figure out the origin of Mike James’ nickname “The Amityville Scorer.”

There are some obvious explanations here. One, Mike James went to highschool at Amityville Memorial in Amityville, New York. Two, for those who don’t know, The Amityville Horror is a well-known horror film from 1979 (remade, fittingly enough, in 2005). Three, and most crucial here, if you search for “Amityville Scorer”, you find numerous tweets from noted Raptors writer and historian Blake Murphy. If there’s a single person responsible for popularizing the nickname, it is no doubt Blake who made it happen.

Where the nickname actually started though is a bit tougher to pin down. Blake says Mike James wrote “Amityville Scorer” on his shoes at least once — suggesting a fun dose of self-awareness. Also, apparently the nickname was popular enough for Bulls fans to toss it out there during Mike James’ late-period stint in Chicago. In a way, I like not quite knowing the answer to this question. It’s the kind of folklore that works better as an indistinct mystery, as if Mike James emerged from the fog of time fully formed as the Amityville Scorer and then disappeared just as quickly, only to be remembered in whispered tones.

A Highlight

When you search for “Mike James Raptors” on Youtube, the first result is — and always will be — the following clip. Long after all the other highlights of his season with the Raptors are lost to time, this clip will stand the test of time. Go ahead and watch it and ask yourself: Is Mike James wrong about anything he’s saying there?

This is the full Mike James experience in Toronto.

Where Are They Now?

After getting traded by the Timberwolves, Mike James bounced around the NBA for some time. He took the court for five other NBA teams before his 38th birthday, and even had a stop in Turkey along the way (to say nothing of various visits to the then-D-League). His total earnings after signing his first pro contract for around $500K: just over $32 million. Not bad for an undrafted journeyman point guard. In all, it’s hard not to suggest that that one season in Toronto allowed Mike James to hang around the NBA for a dozen years.

Naturally, Mike James eventually found his way to the one basketball league left for players on the wrong side of 40: the BIG3. After exhausting his NBA options, he was drafted by the Killer 3s in 2018 — going 16th overall — and managed to move all the way up to ninth on the scoring chart. There’s inspiration to be found here: once a bucket-getter, always a bucket-getter.

That’s the Mike James way.