Last weekend out in Amityville, Long Island, our main man Mike James held his annual Mike James Day. Checking in on it for The Links was Jeff Beer:
Mike James Day 2006: The Amityville Honour
There’s a long and storied tradition of bestowing certain members of the community with their very own “Day.” When The Diesel signed with the Heat in 2004, Miami’s mayor was quick to declare it Shaq Day. The city of Toronto declared it Vince Carter Day after he signed a contract extension in 2001 — a day Raptor fans now celebrate by collectively punching themselves in the face. And February 11th is widely known as Kurt Rambis Day in over 14 cities worldwide (OK, that one’s made up).
Regardless of qualifications, getting a day named for you usually results in a mayoral handshake, a circus-sized “key” to the city, a pat on the back and some sort of ribbon-cutting situation. But after the last photo-op’s been snapped, the cheering crowd generally goes on its merry way with no intention of giving the day another thought.
Not in Mike James’s world.
Now, you might think there’s about 23.5 million reasons for Mike James Day to be July 13 — when Minnesota signed the free agent guard to a four-year deal. But it was last year that Suffolk County, NY and James’s hometown of Amityville declared July 29th “Mike James Day.” To celebrate, he threw a block party in the park and courts he helped refurbish next to his childhood home — now officially The Mike James Courts at Bolden Mack Park.
So when the 29th came rolling around this year, James wasn’t going to let anyone forget whose Day it was. Organizing what can only be described as a Hoops & Cookout Picnic Party Jammapalooza, the second annual Mike James Day did it up with musical guests, inflated romper rooms for the neighborhood kids, three-point contests, a Knicks cheerleader autograph session and enough food to feed double the hundreds of folks who showed up.
“It’s the highlight of his summer, to come back here, spend time with the kids and do something special for the community,” said James’ agent Bill Duffy.
The host himself, sporting a fresh new no. 13 T-Wolves jersey and custom “Amityville Horror” Dunks, cruised through the crowd with a mic dropping everything from congrats for community workers to talkin’ trash with friends, including newly-minted Boston Celtic Allan Ray.
“This is as home as it gets,” said James’ wife, Angela, sitting in the shade and taking it all in. “It doesn’t matter where he lives now, this is always home. His mom still lives ten feet away from here and he practically grew up in this park.”
“I just really enjoy doing something for this community and having a day for the kids here to have a great time,” said James, getting ready to suit up for the party’s grand finale streetball game. “It’s good to know that for one day in my hood there’s all smiles and no tears. That makes me very happy.”
Soon the entire crowd surrounded the courts to watch James’ team, including B.J. McFarland, former West Virginia player and T-Wolves draft pick Gordie Malone and a cast of local ballers take on a group of EBC Rucker all-stars featuring MTV’s “Who’s Got Game” streetball champ Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, Tyrone “Alimoe” Evans of And1 fame and Rucker legend Malloy “The Future” Nesmith.
The game went off from the jump — alley-oops, fading threes, no-looks — and plenty of…um, crowd interaction. It was up close and personal as the trash talk came raining down from the sidelines like Thunderdome (only without Tina Turner). It’s not a good ol’ fashioned ballgame without at least a few invitations for the visiting team to perform anatomically impossible acts on themselves. But in the end, the James crew won the game, the kids were all smiles and planning got underway for the third annual.
See you next year in Amityville.