You all know me as The Solution, but for this post, I will shed that mask and tell the story of how the Phoenix Suns were a symbol of the relationship I had with a girl named Jessica. I am writing this at 2:30 in the morning, I can't sleep and I'm bored shitless, so please excuse any grammatical errors or something that doesn't make sense.
Before I begin, here is some information that will be useful to you as you read the story. I am 18 years old. I live in New Zealand. I've been a member of Bright Side of the Sun since 2010, when I was 14 years old! The names of the girls mentioned in this story, besides Jessica, have been changed, just in case.
All images were taken from old Bright Side articles. Hopefully it's legal.
Year 1-6 = Primary School (NZ) or Elementary School (US)
Year 7-8 = Intermediate School (NZ) or Middle School (US)
Year 9-13 = High School
Form class = Home room
Hooked up = Make out
The story begins
I was twelve years old, had just started high school (Year 9), and had no interest in basketball whatsoever. I played rugby, and although I wasn't very good, I absolutely loved the game. In my opinion, it made basketball look like a sport for girls.
I formed a close friendship with (and had a crush on) a girl named Hannah in my form class. We were both Year 9s, and because we were in the same form class, we were also in the same classes. One Friday evening, she invited me to her church youth group, and as any teenage boy would, I agreed to go. She'd also invited a friend of hers, Jessica, who was the same age as us but attended a different school. I didn't really pay much attention to Jessica at all other than a few awkward conversations, although we did exchange mobile numbers at the end of the night.
Over the next few weeks though, Jessica and I would text often, and by often, I mean all the time. I slowly stopped liking/crushing on Hannah, and began liking Jessica instead. Eventually I asked her to be my girlfriend, and she said yes. She broke up with me a week later.
Two years later
I was now fourteen years old and had just started Year 11 of high school. I was reasonably popular at school, had a ton of friends, and had good grades. I was now a huge basketball fan, and had become a Suns fan after watching Steve Nash highlight mixes on YouTube.
The month was February, and the Phoenix Suns were one of the best teams in the NBA. Suns legends Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire were the leaders, but what the fans loved about that team was the bench. Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley were a part of that boisterous second unit, and three years later, would all be quality starters on winning NBA teams.
The success the Suns were having seemed to translate to Jessica and I's relationship too. We were good friends, we hung out often, and although I was sure that she'd "friendzoned" me, I still had a major crush on her. Our relationship with each other was about as good as it could get without us actually dating.
Three months later, the Suns were embroiled in a Western Conference Final duel against the Los Angeles Lakers. They lost the series 4-2. It was a terrible feeling, to have come so close to the NBA Finals, only to be undone by some unbelievable shot-making from Kobe Bryant, and a Ron Artest buzzer beater in Game 5. Even worse than that though, was the deterioration of me and Jessica's friendship. Having become a member of the "popular crowd", I suddenly had heaps of friends, and was never afraid to share this fact with Jessica. I'd become, in her words, a "bigheaded, unlikeable asshole".
Amar'e leaves, and the decline begins
The summer of 2010 would change the Phoenix Suns from a championship contender to a lottery team. Amar'e Stoudemire left the desert for the bright lights of New York City, and the Suns now lacked a dominant scorer to go along with the slowly ageing Steve Nash. A new front office, led by Lon Babby and Lance Blanks, attempted to bridge the gap that Amar'e left with the signings of Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress, and trading fan favourite Leandro Barbosa to Toronto for Hedo Turkoglu.
The team began the 2010-11 season, and were a .500 team for the first few weeks. Shooting guard Jason Richardson was playing at an All-Star level, but he was traded at the end of the year (along with Turkoglu and Earl Clark) to the Orlando Magic for Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter. My favourite player Goran Dragic was going through a serious slump after having a terrific season the year before, and he was traded to the Houston Rockets for Aaron Brooks.
The Suns began 2011 with a 17-10 record over January and February, giving myself and every other Suns fan hope that we could make the playoffs.. Around about this time, I'd seen the error of my ways, and had apologised to Jessica for being a "bigheaded, unlikeable asshole". She accepted my apology, and we became good friends once again, perhaps even better than before. For the second time in the two years I'd known her, I asked her to be my girlfriend.
The Suns finished the final two months of the season with a 9-14 record, and failed to make the playoffs with a 40-42 record. Jessica said no.
Unlike the Phoenix Suns, who placed 28th in both DRB% and ORB% that season, I rebounded hard from rejection. Jessica had a friend, Lena, who had never been afraid to tell me that she had a thing for me even though she knew that Jessica was the one I wanted. Of course, being the irrational teenage boy I was, I moved on from Jessica to Lena, and after about two weeks on non-stop texting and phone conversations, I asked her out. She said yes. We dated for six months, and I hated it. All I wanted to do was make Jessica jealous, but she seemed unfazed by it all, although she was no longer friends with Lena.
My final year of high school, and my final year of Steve
The Suns didn't really do anything noteworthy before the 2011-12 season, unless you class drafting Markieff Morris and signing Michael Redd as noteworthy. The Suns sucked at the beginning of the season. I didn't talk to Jessica at all.
Despite all this, my high school life was flourishing. I was popular, I was the captain of the basketball team, I managed to get good grades without having to study, and I was going to parties every weekend. I hooked up with about eight girls that year. I didn't really give much thought at all to the Suns struggles, or to Jessica.
But then the Suns decided they wanted to make the playoffs, and so they began a late season push. They were tied with the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, and they played the Jazz in the penultimate game of the season. Marcin Gortat got blocked about 500 times, and the Suns lost 100-88. Season over.
Future Hall of Famer, and my favourite basketball player ever, Steve Nash left the Suns and signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. I was sad, but I believed that we needed a fresh start.
The Dragon returns, and a failed offer sheet
Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola were to be the symbols of this fresh start, but in my opinion, the real catalyst would be Eric Gordon, the injury-prone shooting guard who signed a Suns offer sheet once free agency began.
I attended a party on the same day Eric Gordon signed that offer sheet, and who should I see there but Jessica. We were both a little drunk, and we talked and reminisced about old times. I texted her the next morning, and we agreed to go watch a movie the day after.
The next day, we watched the movie (if you're interested, the movie was Prometheus, which was terrible). I asked her again if she had any romantic feelings for me at all, and to my surprise, she said she did. I was on cloud nine. I came crashing down to earth when, seconds later, she said she had no interest in a relationship whatsoever. That wasn't good enough for me, and I got up and left her, trying not to cry in the middle of a packed shopping mall.
I went home, went on Bright Side of the Sun, and found out that the New Orleans Hornets were matching our offer, and that Eric Gordon would be staying in the Big Easy.
The 2012-13 season began as everyone expected it would: badly. Beasley sucked. Gortat was average. Scola was old. Dragic wasn't Nash. I'd finished high school, and decided to take a year off before attending university. I had a job, but I also had a lot of free time, which I devoted mainly to watching the Suns get their ass kicked 57 times.
I had been dating a girl, Ashleigh, for a few months. Then one night, I went to a friend's 21st birthday party, and got completey hammered off vodka shots. I pulled out my phone, and my drunken mind decided that the best course of action was to text Jessica and tell her that I still had feelings for her. Unbeknownst to me, Jessica was at a party, and was similarly drunk, and she replied that she felt the same way. Ashleigh saw these text messages, deleted them, and broke up with me.
I woke up the next morning with no recollection of what had happened the previous night. I logged on to Facebook, and the first thing I saw was "Ashleigh is now single". I'd fucked up big time, and as Ashleigh refused to talk to me, I had no idea that Jessica felt romantically about me again.
The Suns and I make our comebacks
Suns legend Jeff Hornacek replaced Lindsey Hunter as head coach, and Ryan McDonough was hired as the new Suns general manager. He made a bunch of smart moves, collected a bunch of assets, and earned the love and adulation of all at the Bright Side. The plan was to lose as many games as possible, draft our future star, and then become championship contenders.
A couple of weeks before the start of the season, I turned 18. Jessica and Hannah took me out for lunch. This would be what caused Jessica and I to start talking regularly to one another again. We hung out heaps. Something seemed to have finally clicked.
The Suns began the 2013-14 season on fire, exceeding everybody's expectations and shocking the NBA world. Eric Bledsoe was proving that he was a legitimate NBA starter. Goran Dragic was playing at an All-Star level. PJ Tucker, Gerald Green and Channing Frye were each on a mission to prove that they were competent NBA players after spending seasons out of the NBA. It seemed the Suns had finally risen from the ashes.
And for the third time, I asked Jessica to be my girlfriend.
She said yes.