By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike James of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan is the winner of the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy for the 2018-19 season. The Ford Trophy is awarded annually to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague player with the highest scoring average over a minimum number of games and this season James captured the honor by a considerable margin. It is the EuroLeague’s only end-of-season award that does not rely on voting by fans, media or coaches, but is based solely on statistics. To win the award, James averaged 19.8 points while starting in all of Milan’s 30 games this season. His average was 5.0 points more than the runner-up. James made history by shattering the single-season Milan record for points scored with 595 with the third-most points in competition history. Alexey Shved of Khimki Moscow Region scored 740 last season, surpassing the previous mark of 609 set by Keith Langford of UNICS Kazan two years ago. James scored in double figures in all but one game for Milan this season.
It took James little time to get going this season; he topped the 20-point mark three times in his first four games. He scored 20 points or more 14 times, including five consecutive games from regular season Rounds 17 through 21. James averaged 18.8 points in February to earn MVP of the Month honors. He went beyond the 30-point mark twice this season and did so on the road against two of the best teams in the competition. James scored 31 points against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in Round 12 and a career-high 35 points against Real Madrid in Round 27. James also proved to be much more than a scorer, ranking second in the competition in assists (6.4 apg.). Behind James in the scoring race this season was Cory Higgins of CSKA Moscow, who finished with 14.8 points per game; Toney Douglas (14.5 ppg.) of Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul; Nando De Colo of CSKA (14.47 ppg.); and Jordan Mickey of Khimki (14.21 ppg.). Shved averaged 23.3 points this season but took part in just 14 games, which left him ineligible for the award.
James has been a great scorer everywhere he has played. He started his professional career with Zagreb, where he averaged 19.1 points in nine Croatian League games in the 2012-13 season before joining Galil Gilboa, where he raised his scoring to 22.8 points per game in the Israeli League. James also put up over 20 points in Paffoni Omegna of Italy and VAP Kolossos Rodou of Greece before joining Laboral Kutxa Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz for his EuroLeague debut in the 2014-15 season. A year later, James helped Baskonia reach the 2016 Final Four. He moved to Panathinaikos Athens for two stints from 2016 to 2018. In between, James played for Phoenix and New Orleans of the NBA, where he averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 assists over 36 games. He led Panathinaikos to back-to-back Greek League titles in 2017 and 2018 plus the Greek Cup trophy in 2017. This season, James helped Milan capture the Italian SuperCup.
James is the 12th different player to win the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy in its 15-year existence. The two multiple winners are Igor Rakocevic, with Tau Ceramica in 2007 and 2009, and with Anadolu Efes Istanbul in 2011; and Langford, with Milan in 2014 and UNICS Kazan in 2017. The other Ford Trophy winners were: Shved with Khimki (2018), Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow (2016); Taylor Rochestie of Nizhny Novgorod (2015); Bobby Brown (2013) and Bo McCalebb (2012), both of Montepaschi Siena; Linas Kleiza of Olympiacos Piraeus (2010); Marc Salyers of Chorale Roanne (2008); Drew Nicholas of Benetton Treviso (2006); and Charles Smith of Scavolini Pesaro (2005).
The trophy is named in memory of the late Alphonso Ford, who died of leukemia in September 2004 after a brilliant career in which he was the competition’s leading scorer twice, in 2000-01 and 2001-02, both seasons with Olympiacos. He subsequently led Siena in scoring as it reached the 2003 Final Four. Ford owns the EuroLeague’s all-time best scoring average with 22.2 points in 54 career games. The Ford Trophy is the first in a series of EuroLeague end-of-season honors. Other awards to be announced this week include the EuroLeague Best Defender, the EuroLeague Rising Star and the All-EuroLeague honorees. The MVP award will be announced at this season’s Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the EuroLeague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.