Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns are one of the two expansion teams to join the NBA in 1968 and the first ever professional franchise in major American sports (being basketball, American football, baseball and ice hockey) to locate in Arizona. They currently play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference where they are the only team not to be based in California.
In their 40+ years of existence, the Suns have missed the playoffs only 12 times, won their division 6 times and been twice to the NBA Finals but have never been able to secure a title. With the 4th best winning percentage in the history of the League but no ring to show for it, they have earned the nickname “best team never to win a championship”.

The Desert Suns

While many observers – and NBA executives – believed that because of its scorching heat, small size and distant location, Phoenix was unfit for pro basketball, Richard L. Bloch, a California-based real estate developer, gathered a group of entrepreneurs interested in establishing an NBA franchise in the Valley of the Sun. Thanks to Bloch’s perseverance and against all expectations, the NBA Board of Governors eventually approved the project and on January 22nd 1968, the Phoenix yet-to-be-named franchise became the newest member of the association. A “namethe- team” contest was then organized by local newspaper The Arizona Republic and the “Suns” name was chosen among the 28,000 entries. The owners picked purple and orange as the club’s colors, and Stan Gabe designed what would become the team’s official logo for the next 24 years.

The uniforms

From 1968 to 1992, the Suns uniforms suffered few changes. At home, the outfits were white with orange and purple trim, on the road they were purple with white and orange trim. The jerseys displayed the word “Phoenix” in a western-style font and shorts had half-sun-like designs on the sides. A more “space-age” font was also used before 1974.

connie hawkins phonix

Connie Hawkins with the space-age Phoenix wordmark, early 70s

walter davis suns

Walter Davis in the “western” purple uniform in the 1980s

In 1992, President Jerry Colangelo and Vice-president Tom Ambrose approached the NBA’s creative unit in an effort to modernize what had been the Suns’ logo and uniforms for a quarter of a century. The team was changing arenas and felt the franchise’s first era was coming to a close. A new logo was created, modernizing Stan Fabe’s original design, and integrated onto the jerseys. The main colors stayed the same with black accents added to the road-game uniforms. The word “Phoenix” now appeared on the shorts and was replaced on the jerseys by the “Suns” wordmark. An alternate black road-game uniform was also donned on occasions.

charles barkley

Charles Barkley in road-game 1993 uniform

kevin johnson

Kevin Johnson in action

Despite the success the team had enjoyed wearing the 90s uniform, a new one was introduced as soon as 2000, together with a revamped version of the logo. Purple, orange and white remain the main colors with grey replacing the occasional black. The logo is gone from the jerseys which display the word “Phoenix” on the purple road-game outfits and “Suns” on the white home version. Either the “Suns” or “PHX” wordmark decorate the waistband on the front of the shorts. Since 2003, an alternate orange and grey uniform displaying “PHX” on the front of the jersey is used at least five times during the season both at home and on the road. The Suns were the first NBA team to have an abbreviated version of the city name on the jersey (later followed by Atlanta and New Orleans).

shawn marion, steve nash and amar’e stoudemire

L to R, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in the white and purple home uniforms

o'neal stoudemire bell

Shaq O’Neal, Amar’e Stoudemire and Raja Bell in the orange and grey outfits

jason kidd phoenix suns 32

Jason Kidd in the purple and grey version used on the road

On May 5th, 2010, the Suns players sparked a controversy when they chose to take the court wearing “Los Suns” jerseys – traditionally used on NBA “Noche Latina” – in order to protest a controversial Arizona State immigration law and support the Latino community (Cinco de Mayo is a traditional Mexican celebration widely observed in the US as a celebration of Mexican heritage). The NBA Players Association issued a statement supporting the move.

leandro barbosa steve nash

Brazil-born Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash in “Los Suns” jerseys

The logos

After a contest had given the team its name, the Suns were in need of a logo. Co-owners Don Pitt and Don Diamond first went to a commercial artist who charged them $5,000 for a design that failed to satisfy. They then contacted Stan Fabe, the owner of a printing company in Tucson. Fabe came up with a sunburst that went on to be the team’s official logo until 1992.
On the eve of the 1992-93 season, the Suns were moving to a new arena and President Jerry Colangelo felt the time had come to modernize their image. By the early 90s, the NBA had become a monster machine, and the logos were not solely the clubs’ business anymore. Tom O’Grady, the league creative director, worked with his unit to provide a more modern, more dynamic, new “streaking sun” design to be used also on the team’s new uniforms. Before the 2000-01 season, the Suns again changed uniforms and adopted a revamped version of the 1992 logo. An alternate design integrating the image of a mythical Phoenix bird currently decorates the court of the US Airways Arena.

phoenix suns 1969 logo

Original 1969 Farbe logo

phoenix suns 2000 logo

Logo 2000-present

phoenix suns 1992 logo

Logo 1992-1999

phoenix suns alternate logo

Phoenix Suns Alternate

The venues

Starting with their maiden season and until 1992, the Suns’ home court was the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (usually referred to as the Coliseum) at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. The arena inaugurated in 1965 featured 12,000 comfortable “theater-style” seats, a luxury at the time. It was originally built to host the annual State Fair as well as concerts and other music events. The building is currently home to the derby roller team Arizona Derby Dame. During their first two seasons in the league, the Suns also played three home games in Tucson, AZ, two in New Mexico and one in Salt Lake City.

1992 brought about a change of scenery. The Suns left the Coliseum, whose capacity was getting limited, for the brand new 19,000-seat America West Arena situated 201 East Jefferson, in downtown Phoenix. After America West merged with US Airways, the building was renamed US Airways Arena in 2006. It’s also known as the “Purple Palace”, because of its purple seats, or the “snake pit” as it also home to the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League.

Outdoor games

From 2008 to 2010, the Suns held an annual outdoor exhibition game at the Indian Wells Tennis Venue in California, called the Open. The event took place on the first weekend of October and pitted the Suns against other NBA teams in the 15,000 seat arena that usually hosts the Indian Wells tennis tournament. The first edition, that saw the Denver Nuggets dispose of the Suns, was the first outdoor NBA game since 1972. Phoenix was defeated again in 2009, this time by the Golden State Warriors. Finally, the purple and orange won the third edition against the Dallas Mavericks in 2010. In spite of the event’s success, (it sold out every year), it has been discontinued, mostly because of the difficult conditions imposed by the weather.

The best team never to win a Championship – The building years (1968-75)

The Phoenix Suns were one of two teams (with the Milwaukee Bucks) to officially join the NBA on January, 22nd 1968 as expansion franchises. To allow them to acquire players and build their rosters, an expansion draft was held on May, 6, 1968. That particular type of draft allows expansion teams to select players currently with other existing teams. Each team in activity has the possibility to “lock in” a certain number of players and stop them from being acquired, while the new franchises can choose from any of the unprotected ones. After a series of rounds, the two new teams had eighteen players each while the twelve existing ones had lost three each.
The first man selected, the “Original Sun” as he went on to be nicknamed, was guard Dick Van Arsdale, who came from the New York Knicks. Among the other notable acquisitions were future hall-of-famer Gail Goodrich, all-stars Len Chappell, Larry Costello, Wayne Embry, Bob Love, Jon Mc Glocklin and Guy Rogers. Only eight of them signed with the team, plus John Wetzel who joined them in 1970 after serving two years in the military.
The Suns also took part in the regular 1968 draft in which they selected center Gary Gregor 8th overall.
At age 27, Jerry Colangelo, who had been an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, was hired as General Manager. Colangelo hired John “Red” Kerr, who had been Coach of the Year for his 1966-67 campaign with the Bulls, as the first Suns head coach. With an official roster of Van Arsdale, guard Gail Goodrich, small forward Dick Snyder and Gary Gregor, the Suns were ready to begin their journey. Their first regular-season game took place at home, on October, 18th against Seattle and resulted in a Phoenix win. Unfortunately, the rest of the season wasn’t as successful and the Suns finished with a disastrous 16-66 record.
In the 1969 draft, the Suns, dead last on the season, got to flip a coin with the Milwaukee Bucks for the number one draft pick. Unfortunately, the Bucks won the toss and selected center Lew Alcindor from UCLA (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) while the Suns had to settle for University of Florida center Neal Walk. They were luckier though, when another coin toss gave them the rights to former ABA star Connie Hawkins, who had been blacklisted by the NBA several years before for his alleged involvement in a gambling scandal and was being readmitted.
After a horrendous start to their second season, Red Kerr resigned and the Suns finally improved on their record, finishing 39-43 and even getting into the playoffs. Unfortunately, they lost to the Lakers in the first round. Despite winning records on the two following seasons, they failed to qualify for the playoffs and would not play in
post-season again until 1976.

The Sunderella Suns (1975-76)

At the start of the 1975-76 season, the Suns made a series of moves that proved decisive. First, they acquired guard Paul Westphal through a trade with the Boston Celtics, then drafted University of Oklahoma center Alvan Adams, and finally exchanged John Shumate for Buffalo Braves forward Gar Heard at mid-season.
After a good 14-9 start, followed by a 4-18 slump and a furious 24-13 finish, the Suns found themselves 42-40 and into the playoffs for the first time in years. On their “Cinderella” post-season run, Head Coach John McLeod’s Suns defeated the Supersonics in the first round, before upsetting the huge favorite and defending champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
In their first NBA Finals ever, they got to face the veteran Boston Celtics led by future hall of famers Dave Cowens and John Havlicek. After falling twice at the Boston Garden, the purple and orange held their ground at home and tied the series 2-2. Back in Boston, Game 5 was one of the most memorable games in NBA history, going to triple overtime. The Celtics eventually won the contest 128-126, and the series in 6, to crush the Suns’ hopes of a first championship.

Troubled times (1977-92)

After a disappointing 1976-77 campaign, the Suns were back in the playoffs in 1978 and played in the post-season every one of the seven next seasons, making it twice to the Conference Finals in the process. But the organization was soon to be shaken by the biggest drug scandal the world of pro sports had ever known. On April 1987, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office indicted 13 people including three Suns players (Jay Humphries, James Edwards and rookie Grant Gondrezick) on charges of cocaine and marijuana possession and trafficking. Walter Davis, who at the time was the biggest star on the team, had testified against the three men, as well as former Suns players Gar Heard and Mike Bratz, in order to avoid prosecution himself. Even though none of the defendants went to trial and the whole affair looked mostly as a cover-up for Davis’ own drug problems, the image of the franchise got severely damaged. Out of the turmoil, Jerry Colangelo formed a group to buy the franchise from its original owners and took control in 1987.

Anxious to get over the unfortunate events as fast as possible, Colangelo quickly traded one third of the roster, including the incriminated parties, but kept Davis as a starter. Among the new faces on the team was rookie guard Kevin Johnson. In the following years, more trades brought all-star power forward Tom Chambers over from Seattle and Kurt Rambis from Charlotte while Colangelo drafted Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle. Under new coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, the Suns made the playoffs every year, reaching the Conference Finals twice, in 1989 and 90, but again falling short of the Finals.

Charles Barkley (1992-96)

The Suns 25th season was that of major change. In 1992, they moved to the newly-opened America West Arena, and started the season with a new logo and new uniforms. Head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, after yet another disheartening loss in the later stages of the playoffs was replaced by first-time coach and former Suns player Paul Westphal. But it was on the floor that the biggest change happened. During the offseason, Colangelo had worked a trade and brought over power forward Charles Barkley, already an all-star at the time, in exchange for the Suns’ best scorer Jeff Hornacek. He had also acquired shooting guard Danny Ainge and drafted center Oliver Miller and forward Richard Dumas. Success came immediately. With a starting lineup of Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Majerle, Mark West and Richard Dumas, the Suns finished with a franchise record 62-20 record and Barkley was named MVP of the league. After overcoming a 0-2 game deficit in the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns defeated the Seattle Supersonics and San Antonio Spurs to reach the NBA Finals for the second time in their history. They found themselves opposed to the red-hot defending champion Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, in what was one of the most exciting series of alltime.

After yet another triple overtime in game 3, the Suns eventually succumbed in game 6 when John Paxson’s heroic three-pointer in the dying seconds led the Bulls to a 99-98 victory. The two following seasons, the Suns remained competitive, posting back-to back 55+ win records, but fell twice to the future champion Houston Rockets in the Conference semi-finals. The 1995-96 campaign ended on a less than impressive 41- 41 record and Charles Barkley was traded to Houston in exchange for Sam Cassel, Robert Horry, Mark Bryant and Chucky Brown.

The end of an era (1997-2004)

Barkley’s departure was followed by a string of good but disappointing seasons in which the Suns were almost systematically knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. In 1999, a blockbuster deal brought Orlando star Penny Hardaway to the desert where he teamed up with all-star point guard Jason Kidd to form what was then nicknamed “Backcourt 2000”. Explosive swingman Shawn Marion was drafted the same year, but, The Suns, although competitive, still couldn’t make it to the Finals. In 2002, they missed the playoffs for the first time in years and Jason Kidd, who was in the midst of a domestic abuse scandal, was traded to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Stephon Marbury. After a horrible 2003-04 campaign, Jerry Colangelo who had been the face of the franchise since the early days announced that he was selling the team. It was bought by San Diego-based businessman Robert Sarver, while Jerry’s son Bryan remained the General Manager.

backcourt 2000

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and Jason Kidd, “Backcourt 2000”

The seven seconds or less offense (2004-2008)

With the team struggling hard, Mike D’Antoni had replaced Frank Johnson as the head coach midway through the 2003-04 season. For the next campaign, he had a younger and quicker roster at his disposal. Kidd and the aging Hardaway were gone, as well as Marbury, and had been replaced by former Dallas Mavericks point guard Steve Nash and forward Quentin Richardson. Together with ex-Celtic Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, a third-year power forward they had drafted straight out of high school, they formed one of the most explosive lineups in the league. The stage was set for D’Antoni to implement his offensive philosophy known as the seven seconds or less offense, an up-tempo “run and gun” offense that looked to capitalize on early clock mismatches and transition breaks first used in the late 80s by college coach Paul Weasthead. The strategy immediately paid off. The Suns tied the franchise’s best single-season record at 62-20. Steve Nash was awarded the League MVP award and D’Antoni was named Coach of the Year. But in the playoffs, where the pace is naturally slower, the Suns struggled on defense and ended up losing in the Conference Finals to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

Despite Nash winning his second MVP title in 2006, the two following seasons ended in similar fashion for the Suns, who registered yet another disheartening loss in the Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. In an attempt to solidify their defense, the Suns acquired perennial all-star center Shaquille O’Neal in exchange for Shawn Marion, but to no avail. Once again, they were defeated by the Spurs in the playoffs. Days after the loss, Mike D’Antoni left the team to sign with the New York Knicks.

Rebuilding mode (2008-today)

In 2009, after the disastrous O’Neal experiment had let them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2004, new head coach Alvin Gentry went back to the fast-paced offense. The season was a success, but, as always, the Suns fell in the playoffs, this time to the future champ L.A Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Since 2010, the team has been rebuilding. They let go of the injury-prone Stoudemire who joined D’Antoni in New York, to try and build a younger roster around the all-star duo of Steve Nash and Grant Hill. They entered the 2011-12 season with a starting lineup of PG Steve Nash, SG Jared Dudley, SF Grant Hill, PF Channing Frye and Polish C Marçin Gortat.

To this day, the Suns have reached the playoffs 32 times, been to the Western Conference Finals 9 times and twice to the NBA Finals but are still to win a championship.

Players and personalities

The Suns played their first-ever regular-season game on October, 18th 1968 with a roster acquired in the expansion draft. Among the players were Dick Van Arsdale, considered as the “Original Sun”, future hall-of-famer guard Gail Goodrich, small forward Dick Snyder, rookie center Gary Gregor, small forward Stan McKenzie, center George Wilson, PF Neil Johnson, PF Dave Lattin, SF Bob Warlick and PF McCoy McLemore. The Suns finished with a 16-66 record, predictably the worst of their entire history, which didn’t stop Van Arsdale and Goodrich from earning a trip to the All-Star game.

first phoenix suns team

Standing, L to R: HC Red Kerr, George Wilson (C), Rod Knowles (F/C), McCoy McLemore (F/C), Neil Johnson (F/C), Dave Lattin (F/C); Front, L to R: Gary Gregor (C), Dick Snyder (G/F), Gail Goodrich (G), Stan McKenzie (F/G), Ed Biedenbach (G), Dick Van Arsdale (G/F)

While Goodrich would go back to his former club Los Angeles Lakers after two years, Van Arsdale stayed in Phoenix for the remainder of his career. While with the Suns, he was selected to three All-star games. He also briefly coached the team and is now part of the “Ring of Honor”, the franchise’s very own hall of fame. In the early years of the franchise, other star players included hall-of-famer Connie Hawkins and center Neal Walk.

Although far from being the best season in Suns history, the 1975-76 campaign was the first to lead them to the NBA Finals. With an unimpressive 42-40 record that placed them 4th of the Western Conference, the Suns were unlikely contenders. Their “Cinderella” playoff run, in which they upset the huge favorite Golden State Warriors earned them the nickname “Sunderella Suns”. Among the newest additions were guard Paul Westphal, rookies Alvan Adams and Ricky Sobers and forward Gar Heard who had arrived at mid-season. The Suns would eventually lose in the Finals to the Boston Celtics in 6 games after an epic triple-overtime Game 5.

Paul Westphal is a four-time all-star on his time with the Suns and has later enjoyed great success as head coach of the franchise. Alvan Adams was named Rookie of the Year that year which earned him a spot in the All-star game. Gar Heard is mostly remembered for making what is known as “The Shot”, the buzzer-beater turnaround jump shot that sent Game 5 in its third overtime. On this roster was also a little known bench player called Pat Riley who would go on to win 4 championships as the head coach of the L.A Lakers and Miami Heat. He is currently Miami’s club president.

sunderella suns team

Standing, L to R: Gar Heard (F), Curtis Perry (F), Dennis Awtrey (C), Alvan Adams (F/C), Keith Erickson (G/F), Nate Hawthorne (G/F); Seated, L to R: Ricky Sobers (G), Phil Lumpkin (G), John Wetzel (G/F) HC John McLeod, Dick Van Arsdale (G/F), Paul Westphal (G), Pat Riley (G)

Since this Cinderella 1975-76 campaign, the Suns have posted 19 50+ win seasons, including 11 55+ and 3 60+ points ones. The first one to break the 60- victory mark was the 1992-93 squad (62-20), who also enjoyed a 59-win season two years later.

The Suns had already enjoyed good success since 1988 and kept on building their roster around guard Kevin Johnson and “Thunder” Dan Majerle. In a very publicized trade, Colangelo acquired all-star Charles Barkley from the Philadelphia Sixers while also drafting Oliver Miller and Richard Dumas. For the second time in franchise history, they made it to the finals where they met the defending champion Chicago Bulls. After the Suns won only the second triple-overtime game in NBA Finals history, they eventually lost the series, failing once again to go all the way. Charles Barkley was named MVP of the league that year and has been inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2006. Kevin Johnson is a three-time all-star, as is Dan Majerle. Tom Chambers, Danny Ainge and Cedric Ceballos, in his second stint with the team, were all-stars.

phoenix suns 92-32 team

Back, L to R: Cedric Ceballos (F), Tim Kempton (C), Jerrod Mustaf (F/C), Tom Chambers (F/C), Mark West (C), Oliver Miller (C), Richard Dumars (F), Dan Majerle G/F); Front, L to R: Negerle Knight (G), Frank Johnson (G), Charles Barkley (F), Danny Ainge (G), Kevin Johnson (G) HC Paul Westphal

Another roster tied the 62-20 record more than ten years later. In the 2004-05 season, Steve Nash returned to the team after they had drafted him in 1996 and traded two years later to the Mavericks. With Nash, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson and Amar’e Stoudemire on the court, Phoenix had the best record in the league, but once again fell short of the Finals. Steve Nash won the MVP award twice while Mike D’Antonio was named coach of the year in 2005. Marion, Johnson and Stoudemire are all all-stars.

phoenix suns 2004-05 team

Back, L to R: Bo Outlaw (F), Walter McCarthy (F), Jake Voskuhl (C), Steven Hunter (C), Paul Shirley (F), Amar’e Soudemire (F/C); Front, L to R: HC Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash (G), Joe Johnson (G), Shawn Marion (F), Quentin Richardson (G/F), Jim Jackson (G), Leandro Barbosa (G)

The Suns would break again the 60 victory-mark in 2006-07, with a 61-21 record on the season (including13-win and 17-win streaks) after Joe Johnson’s departure and the blossoming of role players Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa. As always, they fell in the playoffs, this time in the second round, to the San Antonio Spurs. Barbosa was named 6th Man of the Year.

Hall of famers having played with the Suns include: Charles Barkley (with the team from 1992 to ’96), Connie Hawkins (1969-73), Dennis Johnson (1980-83) and Gail Goodrich (1968-70). Jerry Colangelo has been enshrined as well, as coach, executive and owner.

Other players who were selected for the all-star game while playing with the team include: Shaquille O’Neal (2009), Jason Kidd (1996, 98, 2000, 2001), Walter Davis (1978-81, 1984, ’87), Dennis Johnson (1980-82), Connie Hawkins (1970-73), Larry Nance (1985), Charlie Scott (1973-75), Stephon Marbury (2001, 2003) and Truck Robinson (1981).

Other multiple all-stars who spent some time with the team include Vince Carter, Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Michael Finley, Danny Manning and Paul Silas.

Personal stats

Alvan Adams, arguably not the best player to ever play in a Suns uniform, appears in the top 3 of most categories, partly because he is, by far, the player who played the most games as a Sun (200+ more than his runner-up Walter Davis).
To this day, guard Walter Davis is the franchise’s best all-time scorer with 15,666 points but has only the 9th best ppg. He is also third in steals behind Adams and Marion. Marion is second in rebounds, third in blocks and fourth in points. Steve Nash is the assist leader with 6,860 while Larry Nance leads the block department. Kevin Johnson, the third best scorer in franchise history is also second in assists with the second best apg average in franchise history just behind Jason Kidd.

Best scorers
1 – Walter Davis
2 – Alvan Adams
3 – Kevin Johnson
Best PPG
1 – Charlie Scott
2 – Charles Barkley
3 – Gail Goodrich
Most assists
1 – Steve Nash
6,860* (3rd best APG)
2 – Kevin Johnson
6,518 (2nd best APG)
3 – Alvan Adams
Most rebounds
1 – Alvan Adams
2 – Shawn Marion
6,616 (3rd best RPG)
3 – Amar’e Stoudemire
Most blocks
1 – Larry Nance
940 (also best BPG)
2 – Mark West
3 – Shawn Marion
Most steals
1 – Alvan Adams
2 – Shawn Marion
3 – Walter Davis
Most games played
1 – Alvan Adams
2 – Walter Davis
3 – Steve Nash

*Steve Nash is still active with the team and likely to improve on these stats.
Jason Kidd has the best APG ratio (9.7)
Paul Silas has the best RPG (12.1) and Charles Barkley, the 2nd (11.5)
Ron Lee has the best SPG ratio (2.2), Jason Kidd the 2nd best (2.1)
Two players have been league MVP while in purple and orange, Charles Barkley in 1993 and Steve Nash who snatched back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. Alvan Adams was named Rookie of the Year in 1975 in his first season with the Suns, as were Walter Davis in 1977 and Amar’e Stoudemire in 2003. Four Suns players were recognized as Sixth Men of the Year: Eddie Johnson (1989), Danny Manning (1998), Rodney Rogers (2000) and Leandro Barbosa (2007). Two were named Most Improved Players, Kevin Johnson in 1989 and Boris Diaw in 2006.

The only two Suns coaches to be honored as Coach of the Year were Cotton Fitzsimmons in 1989 and Mike D’Antoni in 2005, while the management has had more success. Jerry Colangelo, long-time owner and original General Manager was named Executive of the Year four times (1976, 81, 89, 93) and his son Bryan, once, in 2005.

The Suns have retired 12 numbers so far, for players and staff who played an important role in the history of the franchise. They’re all members of what the Suns organization calls “The Ring of Honor”.

5: Dick Van Arsdale, G
6: Walter Davis, G
7: Kevin Johnson, G
9: Dan Majerle, F
24: Tom Chambers, F,
33, Alvan Adams, C
34, Charles Barkley, F
42, Connie Hawkins, F,
44: Paul Westphal, G, Head Coach
832: Cotton Fitzsimmons, Head Coach (Fitzsimmons racked up 832 wins as the Suns HC)
Jerry Colangelo, General Manager, Interim Head Coach, owner
Joe Proski, long-time trainer

On April 18, 2012, the Suns also plan to add former head coach John MacLeod to the Ring of Honor, during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 40th team anniversary

In 2007, Suns fans were given the opportunity to vote and establish a list of the players they thought were the best to have worn the purple and orange uniform. The selection, known as the 40th Anniversary Team, was unveiled on January, 8th 2008. Here are the twelve men chosen as the franchise’s best all-time players:

van arsdale the original sun

G Dick Van Arsdale, the “Original Sun”

walter davis

G Walter Davis

steve nash

G Steve Nash

kevin johnson kj

G Kevin Johnson, “KJ”

paul westphal

G Paul Westphal

dan majerle thunder

G/F Dan Majerle, “Thunder”

connie hawkins the hawk

F Connie Hawkins, the “Hawk”

tom chambers

F Tom Chambers

sir charles barkely

F Charles Barkley, “Sir Charles”

shawn marion the matrix

F Shawn Marion, “the Matrix”

amare stoudamire stat

F/C Amar\’e Stoudemire, “STAT”

alvan adams

C Alvan Adams

The 2011-12 season

After a lock-out shortened the season to 66 games, the Phoenix Suns started on December, 26 with a loss at home against the New Orleans Hornets. After a difficult 12-19 start, they are currently 26-26, 3rd in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference. As of right now, they’re out of playoff contention but they are actually just two games back of the #7 seed, and all teams from 5th to 12th can still hope to make it to the post-season. As of April 2nd, they have 14 games left on the season, including 8 on the road. 7 of these games are against teams currently ranking 5 to 12 in the West.

The roster 2012.

At the start of the season, the starting line-up consisted of C Marçin Gortat, PF Channing Frye, SF Grant Hill, SG Jared Dudley and PG Steve Nash. On March, 27th, Hill got a knee injury which is likely to put an end to his season. The rest of the roster is as follows:

steve nash 2012 phoenix suns

13 – Steve Nash (G)

sebastian telfair 2012 phoenix suns

31 – Sebastian Telfair (G)

ronnie price 2012 phoenix suns

2 – Ronnie Price (G)

jared dudley 2012 phoenix suns

3 – Jared Dudley (G)

shannon brown 2012 phoenix suns

26 – Shannon Brown (G)

michael redd 2012 phoenix suns

22 – Michael Redd (G)

grant hill 2012 phoenix suns

33 – Grant Hill (F)

hakim warrick 2012 phoenix suns

21 – Hakim Warrick (F)

josh childress 2012 phoenix suns

1 – Josh Childress (F)

channing frye 2012 phoenix suns

8 – Channing Frye (F)

markieff morris 2012 phoenix suns

11 – Markieff Morris (F)(R)

marçin gortat 2012 phoenix suns

4 – Marçin Gortat (C)

robin lopez 2012 phoenix suns

15 – Robin Lopez (C)

Polish center Marçin Gortat is currently the team’s best scorer with a 16.2 ppg average (35th in the NBA). He also leads the team in rebounds with 10 boards a game (8th in the NBA) and blocked shots (1.51 bpg – 15th in the NBA). Steve Nash is number one in assists (11.1) and leads the NBA in that category. He is also the 7th best player of the league in free throw percentage. Ronnie Price is their best steal man with just under one per game.

The front office

Since 2004, the club belongs an investment group led by San Diego-based and Tucson native businessman Robert Sarver, who bought it from Jerry Colangelo for $401 million. In 2010, Brad Casper became the new club president and CEO. After Steve Kerr, of Chicago Bulls fame, resigned, he was replaced by Lance Banks as General Manager and Lon Babby as director of basketball operations.

The coaching staff

Alvin Gentry is the current head coach assisted by Bill Cartwright, Dan Majerle, Igor Kokoskov, Elston Turner and Noel Gillespie. Aaron Nelson is the athletic trainer.


After humble beginnings, around 4,500 per game in their maiden season, the average attendance grew progressively over the years. The first season to break the 10,000 mark was the 1976-77 one, in the wake of their Sunderella playoff run. It grew steadily after that until reaching full capacity in the last season at the Coliseum. The beginnings in the new West America Arena were a success as all the regular home games were sold-out for six consecutive seasons. Since then, the building has undergone some modifications and the capacity has been reduced a bit. All the home games were sold out again between 2006 and 2009.

The Phoenix Suns, despite their 4th best winning percentage in league history is currently the oldest franchise never to have won a championship. The team is currently rebuilding its roster and after missing the playoffs last season, may not make them again this year. If that was the case, it would be the first time since the mid 80s the team would not participate in the playoffs two years in a row.

Suns trivia and factoids

The first official bucket in Suns history was scored by Dick Van Arsdale, in the opening moments of their first regular-season game on October, 18th 1968 at the Coliseum. Dick Snyder made the first assist.

Before their 1968 regular-season opener, the Suns played a few pre-season games in Mesa, Flagstaff, Globe and Fort Huachuca, Arizona to promote NBA in the entire state.

Both Robin Lopez and Markieff Morris, currently on the Suns roster, have a twin brother in the NBA. Out of the 7 sets of twins to have played in the NBA, five players spent some time with Phoenix. Dick and Tom Van Arsdale were teammates for the Suns in the 1976-77 season.

To encourage thousands of people to enter the « Name the team » contest sponsored by the Arizona Republic in 1968, the club announced they would give away free game tickets to every one of the participants. The newspaper eventually received 28,000 responses, among which then-general manager Jerry Colangelo chose the “Suns”. The lucky winner, a woman called Selena King, won a $1,000 prize and season tickets for the 1968-69 campaign. Among the most incongruous unselected names were:
The Area Zoners, Broncbusters, Cactossers, Eager Beavers, Flamethrowers, Gila Monsters, Jumping Beans, Prickly Pears, Tarantulas, White Wing Doves, Camelback Cagers and Basketweavers.

Jerry Colangelo got the idea for building a new multi-purpose arena for the Suns (that turned out to be the US Airways Center) when visiting the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Phoenix played in the only two triple-overtime games in NBA Finals history. The first one was game 5 of the 1976 Finals in Boston and the second, Game 3 of the 1993 edition against the Chicago Bulls. The Suns lost the first one, and won the second but both times failed to win the series.

In the first round of the 1996 draft, the Suns chose Santa Clara Canadian point guard Steve Nash. When hearing the news, fans booed to protest the selection of the little known player. Nash went on be the league’s MVP not once, but twice.

After the Suns’ first-ever game, an exhibition pre-season matchup against the Clippers on October, 4th 1968, performers Andy Williams and Henry Mancini, who were part of the original owners, regaled the crowd with a special concert.

Tom Chambers, who signed with the Suns in 1988 after playing for Seattle, was the first unrestricted free agent in NBA history.

The Suns played in the highest scoring game in playoff history, Game 4 of the 1992 conference semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers in which the Suns lost in a double overtime 153-151.

The Suns hold the record (tied with the Boston Celtics) for most points scored in regulation by one team. They chalked up 173, against the Denver Nuggets on November, 10 1990. During the same game, the Suns also set the record for most points in a half with 107.

The franchise record for most points by one player belongs to Tom Chambers, who scored 60 points on May, 24 1990 against the Supersonics.
The playoff record is 54 by Charles Barkley on May 4, 1994.

Current Suns starters Steve Nash and Grant Hill are both among the 5 oldest active players in the NBA.

Although Alvan Adams’s number 33 has been retired, Adams has allowed Grant Hill (who has worn that number throughout his career) to use it.

The franchise record for most assists on one game was set by Kevin Johnson who dished 25 dimes on April, 6 1994. The playoff record belongs to Steve Nash with 23, who had a record 15 in the first half (tied for NBA record with Magic Johnson) Kevin Johnson also has the Suns record for most steals in a game, with 10, on December 9, 1993.

The record holders for blocked shots are Amar’e Stoudemire and Larry Nance who both had ten. The record for most rebounds is 27, snatched by Paul Silas on January, 18 1971.

The Suns’ mascot, a Gorilla called “Go”, is among the most famous ones in the NBA. He has been inducted in the Mascots Hall of Fame.

The Suns longest winning streak is 17 games back in Dec-Jan 2006-07 (8th T-best all-time).

Former Suns star Kevin Johnson is currently the mayor of the city of Sacramento, California.

The Robert Bloch-led investment group had to pay a $2 million entry fee to join the NBA in 1968. In 1987, the investment group led by Jerry Colangelo bought the franchise from its original owners for $44 million (a record at the time), before selling it back for $410 million in 2004.

Stan Fabe charged the Suns’ owners $200 for designing the first official team logo.