It's taken me some time to put together my thoughts about Our Dear Leader's departure. I know that some readers will think I'm taking this way too personally, but sports is about passion, and this was a much-needed cathartic exercise for me.
If I could talk to Steve right now, this is what I would tell him:
You were my hero, man. You gave everything to this town. You gave us your health, blood, sweat, and tears, all literally. You gave us the prime years of your career, and you became the face of Arizona sports. You had the greatest stretch run of any player who has ever put in on a Suns uniform. You proved us wrong again and again and again. You came back to the Suns when I entered my senior year of high school, and you stayed through my second year of med school. You've been such a huge part of my life over the past 8 years. I can't count how many nights I spent with my friends just watching you and your wizardry. Your hard work, dedication, intelligence, worldliness, and overall goodness made you someone I wished to emulate.
In my mind, you reinvented basketball. You, D'Antoni, and the rest of the SSOL Suns represented something bigger than basketball to me. You guys were an idea...maybe, just maybe, you could win the whole damn thing by bucking convention and just playing loose and free and joyfully. You borrowed from soccer and turned NBA ball into "The Beautiful Game". And you almost reached the promised land, damn it. You almost did, so many times. The worst breaks went against you, and you kept trying and trying and trying. Even as the talent around you was gutted, you stayed loyal to our franchise. Loyal to our city.
It's hard to think rationally about your decision to go to the Lakers. Thinking about it objectively, I understand why you did it. I do. You get a shot at that ring that you deserve, and you get to stay on the West Coast. I was so angry when I heard you were going there. I still am. The Phoenix fan in me just can't get over it. I don't know how long it will take, but it hurts. A lot. If you're a Phoenix native, you can't root for Los Angeles. You just can't. It's against every fiber of your being. It's in your DNA.
You were cognizant of this, Steve. You alluded to it when you talked about how difficult it would be to put on purple and gold. And yet...you chose them. Our biggest rivals for 40 years.
It's a deep wound. When I heard the news, I called you a traitor. A turncoat. Someone who wasn't who I thought they were. And I'm going to be honest...it's really, really hard to get over those feelings(in a purely irrational, emotional fan sort of way). Still, whenever those thoughts pop up, I think about how you literally bled for this city. Any other team and I would probably cry with happiness when you won your ring. We probably would have built you a statue. But the Lakers? I'm sorry, Steve. I don't want to see them hoist another banner. I really don't. I can't. As long as you're wearing purple and gold, I can't root for you. And that kills me, man. I want you to win that ring so badly, but I don't want the Lakers to win. What am I to do? I worship you, but in my mind, you've made it impossible for me to cheer for you in good conscience. If you win a ring, it's not going to have the same meaning as it would have if you had won one here. And it's not just me saying that: you said that yourself, in an interview last season or two seasons ago. I can't boo you, though. I can't hate you. You've meant too much to this city over the past decade for me to completely turn on you.
So thank you for everything over the past 8 years. I don't know how this is going to play out. It's a damn shame that your career had to end in Laker gold; that's the worst possible outcome for a Suns legend, as far as I'm concerned. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do now that my favorite athlete has gone to my most hated team.
Still...at the end of all of it, after all of this has passed, after you've retired...I hope you'll be remembered as one of the greatest Suns of all time, NOT the 2nd greatest Laker point guard of all time.
You were Phoenix's Son, man.
And it's hard for me to admit right now, but you were my Phoenix Sun.