A History Of Former Suns Stars In Their Returns To Phoenix

Well he's back in town and if you're like me you're exhausted at hearing about former Suns star Amar'e Stoudemire.

I'm not sure what story line exhausts me more - the fact that people pretend he wasn't resigned because of this season or the fact that at 20-14 the Knicks are supposedly world beating monsters.

But since he is back in town it got me to thinking about other former Suns greats and how they performed in their first game back in the Valley of the Sun. With that in mind I set out to research how those stars performed. 

Unfortunately the box scores on Basketball-Reference only go back to 1986-87 so I am unable to provide the comeback performances of Dennis Johnson, Paul Westphal, Charlie Scott, Paul Silas, Gail Goodrich, and Connie Hawkins. We'll start with the late 80's and go from there.    

Walter Davis - Denver Nuggets, December 23, 1988

Suns Career: 

A lot of newer Suns fans probably have no idea, but Walter Davis is the all-time leading scorer in franchise history. As a first round pick out of North Carolina in 1977, Davis won the Rookie of the Year.

He proceeded to spend the next 11 seasons in Phoenix where he was a 6-time All-Star and two-time 2nd team All-NBA selection. Also he had a killer nickname - ‘The Man With the Velvet Touch' - can't beat that.  He also played in two Western Conference Finals for the Suns.

Spending 11 impressive years with a team gets you a lot, and for Davis it put him first in points, second in games, first in field goals, field goal attempts, third in steals, and 4th in assists. All that obviously put him in the Suns Ring of Honor and saw his #6 retired in 1994.


One of the biggest problems Davis faced in his tenure in Phoenix was drugs. Like many of the mid 80's Suns, Sweet D indulged a bit too much in cocaine - forcing him into rehab twice and eventually leading to him testifying against a number of his teammates as part of a federal drug prosecution in 1987.

Probably looking to distance themselves from the nastiness, the Suns effectively opted not to re-sign Davis in 1988 when they offered him only half of his previous year's salary. The Suns former franchise player signed with Denver.   

Return Performance:

Davis came off the bench for high scoring Denver and scored 24 points in 33 minutes but the Suns took the game 119-107 behind 27 points from Armen Gilliam. 

Larry Nance - Cleveland Cavaliers, January 11, 1989

Suns Career:

Effectively overlapping with most of the Davis era, Larry Nance was a high flying power forward for 6 and a half seasons in Phoenix.

Nance was selected in the first round of the 1981 NBA Draft (20th pick) and in his career cracked the All-Star game in 1985 and won the 1984 Slam Dunk contest. He went on to average over 20 points in three different seasons with the Suns.

For the most part, Nance was a well-above average 19/9 guy with Phoenix. 


Larry Nance basically served as the key cog in a Suns rebuilding effort. Citing a need to change up the roster, the Suns dealt Nance, Mike Sanders, and a first round draft pick (which was eventually Randolph Keys) to acquired Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin, a first round pick that turned into Dan Majerle and a second rounder that turned into Dean Garrett.

Basically it was a great trade for the Suns. They got two future Ring of Honor members and another guy who would serve as a starter for years to come. 

Nance didn't fare too poorly either as he went on to become one of the big-time players in some underrated early 90's Cavs teams. 

Return Performance:

In 37 minutes Nance scored 28 points (11/20 shooting), pulled down 13 rebounds and blocked 3 shots to lead Cleveland to a 124-121 win. 

Tom Chambers had 28 for the Suns while Armen Gilliam chipped in with 23/15. Gilliam is a surprisingly forgotten decent player. 

Jeff Hornacek - Philadelphia 76ers, March 3, 1993

Suns Career:

If you're an average sized white guy like me then you probably drew inspiration from Jeff Hornacek as a kid. What you probably neglected to realize is that Hornacek was 6'3 and could shoot a basketball better than you could do anything. 

Though he was a 1986 second round pick out of Iowa State, Hornacek was an immediate rotation player for the Suns and a full-time starter by midway through his second season.

Hornacek was one of the best players on those late 80's, early 90's Suns teams, including two that went to the Western Conference Finals. In his final season with the Suns, Horny averaged a career best 20.1 points per game and coupled that with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 44% shooting from beyond the arc, and his lone career All-Star game. Underrated as all hell. 


As good as Hornacek was in that last season with Phoenix, he was going to have a hard time transforming into a tough, dominant power forward. However he was able to be flipped for one when the Suns traded him, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang to Philadelphia for Mr. Charles Barkley. 

Hornacek never really warmed to the idea of playing in Philly and didn't even last two seasons there before being dealt to Utah. 

Return Performance:

Did anyone else have that book the Arizona Republic printed after the Suns made the 1993 NBA Finals? Well in that book they have a picture of Hornacek running out of the America West Arena tunnel with the Sixers with a look on his face that basically screams "kill me" - this stuck out to me. 

While he didn't kill himself, the Suns obliged as they won 125-115 behind 36/17 from Charles Barkley. Hornacek scored 15 points (5/12), had 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes.

Tom Chambers - Utah Jazz, November 27, 1993

Suns Career:

Chambers is the first guy on this list who wasn't a Suns original, in fact that's because he was the NBA's first unrestricted free agent when he left the rain of Seattle for Phoenix in 1988.

The Chambers signing was the last piece in a puzzle that helped the Suns transform from a 28 win team in 1987-88 to a 55 win powerhouse the next season. The big forward averaged 25 and 27 points per game respectively in his first two seasons in Phoenix. In his next two seasons his numbers fell across the board - including minutes but he was still a key starter. 

In his final year with the Suns, Chambers was outshone by Charles Barkley and relegated to a reserve role where he still average 12 points a contest. 

The 6'10 current Suns broadcaster was 3-time All-Star in Phoenix and a two-time 2nd team All-NBA selection. Chambers is currently in the Suns Ring of Honor. 


Following that Finals season and with the team bringing in A.C. Green, the Suns no longer really had a need for Chambers and released him.

He took that cue and returned home to play for the Jazz where he stuck for a couple seasons before finishing up with the Hornets and 76ers. 

Return Performance:

Already 34 years old, Chambers best years were behind him when he took the floor as a reserve for the Jazz in 1993. In that game he played just 21 minutes and scored 10 points on 4/10 shooting. 

The Mailman wasn't delivering many bench minutes to his backups those days. 

Dan Majerle - Cleveland Cavaliers, January 14, 1996

Suns Career:

After a suspect beginning in which his selection out of Central Michigan was booed by Suns fans, Dan Majerle became one of the most beloved players in Suns history. 

In the early part of his career, Majerle's style of play was more of an aggressive power game - one that garnered him the nickname Thunder Dan. But Majerle further refined his game to add a deadly three point shot. During the 1991-92 season, Majerle hit 87 three pointers, the next year he hit 167 and followed that up with 192 and 199. 

In his 7 seasons with the Suns, Majerle was named an All-Star three times and was a 2nd team All-Defensive selection twice.

Majerle is 10th in Suns history in points scored and held the record for three pointers made until Steve Nash broke it last season.  He was inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor in 2003. 


In a trade that still boggles my mind to this day, the Suns decided they needed to get a center so they sent the 29 year-old, in his prime swingman to Cleveland, along with Antonio Lang and a first round pick (later used on Brevin Knight) for Hot Rod Williams.

Never mind that Hot Rod hadn't averaged more than 14 points in 5 years and could barely clear 7 rebounds a game - he was a center and apparently people need centers. 

Hot Rod sucked for Phoenix while Majerle spent one year in Cleveland before departing to be a role player on some solidly competitive Miami Heat teams. In what was a fitting conclusion, Majerle spent the 2001-2002 season in Phoenix to close his career and is now an assistant coach with the team.   

Return Performance:

Apparently unable to overtake Chris Millis in the starting lineup, Majerle came off the bench for the Cavs and scored 20 points in 35 minutes - along with 4 rebounds and a couple steals - in a 89-74 Cavs win.

At the time of this game Charles Barkley was injured so the Suns trotted out a lineup of Michael Finley, A.C. Green, Elliot Perry, Chris Carr, and Joe Kleine. Yup, that was the lineup. Something called a Tony Smith even played 21 minutes. 

Charles Barkley - Houston Rockets, November 2, 1996

Suns Career:

Sir Charles' career in Phoenix was basically a comet - we got three great seasons and it was over in a flash.

When he arrived in Phoenix, Barkley was already a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate and he brought all the attitude and toughness that came with it to the Suns. In his first year with Phoenix, Barkley won the MVP and led the team to the NBA Finals.

In the subsequent two seasons, Barkley's numbers weren't quite as impressive but he still averaged double-doubles. Unfortunately the Suns were unable to get further than the Western Conference Semifinals where they twice blew enormous series leads to eventual champion Houston. 

Barkley is in the Suns Ring of Honor. 


Following a 1995-1996 season that was enormously disappointing from a team standpoint - the Suns went just 41-41 and we knocked out in the first round of the playoffs - Barkley was dealt to the Rockets. The package the Suns received is still burned into my brain - Sam Cassel, Robert Horry, Chucky Brown, and Mark Bryant

Essentially a poo-poo platter as all would go on to have relatively short Suns careers. At least Cassel helped land the Suns Jason Kidd.  

Return Performance:

Chuck basically kicked the Suns asses all over the floor. Since the Rockets were paper thin, Barkley was forced to play 45 minutes but in a 110-95 win he scored 20 points (5/8 shooting) and pulled down an astounding 33 rebounds.

The 33 rebounds were more than the entire Suns team combined (30).

Jason Kidd - New Jersey Nets, March 6, 2002

Suns Career:

The Suns acquired Kidd from Dallas in late 1996 in exchange for Michael Finley, Sam Cassell, A.C. Green and a 1998 2nd round draft pick. Notwithstanding the fact that I loved Michael Finley it was a great trade for Phoenix.

Kidd played 4 and a half seasons for the Suns right in the prime of his career - peaking in his second season when he averaged nearly 17 points a game along with almost 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He was never really a reliable shooter but Jason could stuff a stat sheet.  

He was a three-time All-Star and three-time 1st team All-NBA selection for the Suns. Even though he played here relatively briefly he's still 5th in Suns history in assists. 


Really no charming way to put this one. In January of 2001, Kidd was arrested and pleaded guilty to domestic abuse charges in connection with an incident involving his wife Jounmana. With concerns about the image of the franchise, Jerry Colangelo engineered Kidd's departure to New Jersey and in return received the inferior scoring guard, Stephon Marbury (along with Johnny Newman and Soumalia Samake).   

Return Performance:

Though the Suns were scuffling on their way to a losing season and the resurgent Nets were enjoying one of their best years in recent memory, Phoenix was able to beat the Nets 89-87.

Kidd played 41 minutes and put up a very similar box score to how he performed in Phoenix - 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. The 4/18 shooting didn't exactly aid the Jersey cause. 

Shawn Marion - Miami Heat, November 28, 2008

Suns Career:

Selected by the Suns with the 9th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Marion wound up playing more than 8 seasons in Phoenix and was a crowd favorite. 

The Matrix developed from a role player in his rookie season to a guy who was consistently around 20 points and 10 rebounds for his entire stay in the Valley. First paired with Jason Kidd and then with Steve Nash, Marion was a guy who complemented a excellent point guard about as well as possible.

Despite his awful jump shooting form, Marion was a guy who could do a little bit of everything. A super glue guy of sorts.  During the 2005-06 season where Amar'e Stoudemire was out with injury, Marion stepped his game up to the next level throwing up a 21.8/11.8 for the year. Both were career highs. 

Marion was a three-time All-Star in Phoenix and a two-time 3rd team All-NBA selection. I'd be very surprised if he's not eventually in the Ring of Honor as he sits 4th in Suns history in points, 2nd in both rebounds and steals, and 3rd in blocks. 


Pretty easily boiled down to the fact that Marion thought he deserved to be paid like a max salary player and the Suns disagreed that he was worth it. 

Though many deals were suggested regarding Marion the one relatively new Suns GM Steve Kerr took was a package that sent the Matrix and Marcus Banks to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal. Well all know how that worked out.

Marion bounced from Miami to Toronto before signing with Dallas before last season and though he's carved a nice little niche with the Mavs, the Suns could theoretically still be paying him max money. Yikes. 

Return Performance:

It took until the following season for Marion to finally return to US Airways Center and when he did his Miami Heat beat the Steve Nash-less Suns 107-92. For the contest, Marion played 36 minutes but scored just 10 points on 5/13 shooting. pulling down 9 rebounds and handing out 6 assists. 

Being without Nash MIGHT have helped Miami.    

Raja Bell - Charlotte Bobcats, February 24, 2009

Suns Career:

He might not totally belong on this list in my eyes but damn people loved Raja Bell. He signed with the Suns before the 2005-06 season as a replacement for Quentin Richardson and immediately became a large factor in the Suns offense. 

Bell was named 1st team All-Defense in 2006-07 and 2nd team in 2007-08 along with leading the NBA in three point goals in 06-07.

He will primarily be remembered for a pair of postseason accomplishments - (1) hitting a corner three pointer in Game 5 of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals that sent the game into a second overtime and (2) clotheslining the hated Kobe Bryant. Both events were relatively epic.   


Following Mike D'Antoni's departure after the 2007-08 season, Phoenix hired Terry Porter and well, you remember how badly that worked out. Bell was one of the most outspoken critics of Porter and found himself shipped to Charlotte - along with Boris Diaw - in exchange for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley

Return Performance:

In a Suns 112-102 win later that season, Raja played 40 minutes, scored 23 points and had 3 rebounds and assists.  Charlotte sucked. 

Welcome back Amar'e - I hope you lose and cry.

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