Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor Players: Entrances and Exits (Part I)

Many great players have worn Phoenix Suns uniforms since the team's inception in 1968. Some passed through quickly (Jason Kidd, Shaquille O'Neal), while others played their best ball in Phoenix and became Suns legends. Nine former players are currently in the Suns Ring of Honor. Their names can be seen at US Airways Center, along with the names of non-players Jerry Colangelo, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Joe Proski.

Steve Nash will undoubtedly be honored with induction in the Ring in the future, as a strong case can be made that he is the greatest player in franchise history. Either through retirement or a trade, Nash will no longer be a Phoenix Suns player within the next few years. Sometimes exits are graceful and glorious, other times they're awkward or acrimonious. The end hasn't been written for the story of Nash as a Sun yet, but let's examine the way the nine Ring of Honor players concluded their Suns careers.


This conversation only involves players currently in the Ring. Players who will eventually be in the Ring (Amare Stoudemire), or who fans would like to see in (Grant Hill), or who the esteemed Scott Howard is certain will eventually be in (Shawn Marion) are an argument for another day. And, so there is no misunderstanding, I am absolutely not advocating trading Steve Nash. But, one way or another, Nash will be leaving within a few years. When he does, will he retire as a Sun and have a nice ceremony at USAC as he rides off into the sunset? Or will he be traded away for prospects and picks, with the announcement coming at a press conference? Let's think of this as an exercise of trying to learn lessons from Suns history. That said, the first four of the nine players in the Suns Ring of Honor, in alphabetical order:

Alvan Adams

Achievements as a Sun:

After being selected by the Suns with the 4th overall pick of the 1975 draft, Adams immediately established himself as a force by winning Rookie of the Year and earning an all-star game berth in 1976 as he averaged 19.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game on a Suns team that made the NBA Finals. Adams was an undersized center at 6'9", but made up for it with excellent passing and shooting skills. "The Oklahoma Kid" went on to play his entire 13 year career in a Suns uniform and, while his career 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game won't wow anybody, Alvan Adams is a Phoenix Sun through and through. He retired as the franchise leader in minutes played, rebounds and steals, and second in points scored.


How he departed:

Adams retired as a Suns player in 1988. The team retired his #33, but he gave Grant Hill permission to wear it when Hill joined the Suns in 2007, in an example that one class act deserves another. Currently the Suns Senior VP of Operations, the relationship between the Suns and Alvan Adams has been a win for all since 1975.

Charles Barkley

Achievements as a Sun:

Charles Barkley was the first international sports superstar to call Phoenix home. It's difficult to describe the magical ride that started when the Suns traded for Barkley in 1992. Barkley played on the original (and only "real") Dream Team that summer, then made the all-star team, won league MVP and led the Suns to the 92-93 NBA Finals as he averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game that year. Wow. Forget about his exit for now; that was quite an entrance! In Barkley's four seasons in Phoenix, he put up 20/10 numbers in each as the Suns knocked on the door of a championship three times, losing only to the eventual league champion in his first three seasons.

If you weren't around to see it, here's Barkley at his peak. His game is in full bloom, as he scores from the post, makes 3s, makes mid-range jumpers, scores on the break and on putbacks. Just pure domination right here.

How he departed:

Barkley's exit wasn't quite as graceful as his entrance. The Suns finished only 41-41 in his last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs, Barkley voiced his displeasure with the team and greased the skids out of town, eventually being traded to Houston in 1996 for Sam Cassell (now hated by Suns fans), Robert Horry (now despised by Suns fans), Mark Bryant (run of the mill backup big man) and Chucky Brown (some guy). An awful trade, though the fact that the Suns were able to later parlay Cassell, along with Michael Finley and A.C. Green, into Jason Kidd helped ease the blow and return the Suns to relevance. We all know what Barkley is doing now, working on TNT's studio show, where he is sometimes wrong, sometimes simple-minded, sometimes deadly accurate, always blunt and entertaining, and never "turrible." He was a larger than life figure as a player and remains so in his media career.

Tom Chambers

Achievements as a Sun:

Tom Chambers arrived in Phoenix as a splashy free agent signing in 1988 and coach Cotton Fitzsimmons went to the 6'10" forward early and often. Along with Kevin Johnson, Mark West and Dan Majerle, Chambers played a huge part in the resurgence of the Suns, as they won 55 games in 88-89 and made the conference finals after winning only 28 the previous year. Chambers was an all-star and posted 25.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game that season. He played with the Suns for 5 years, making three all-star teams, and playing a major role on a team that made the conference finals twice and the league finals once. Unathletic white guy? This highlight begs to differ. Yes, that is Mark Jackson's throat that Chambers is using as a stepping stone for his knee.

How he departed:

Chambers' production started to flag after his second brilliant season with the Suns, and his scoring average plummeted from 27.2 in 89-90 to 12.2 in 92-93 after he was moved to the bench when the team acquired Barkley. He was released following that season, as both team and player were ready to move on, and signed with Utah, where he provided scoring off the bench for them. Fans had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Chambers. He was loved when he came to Phoenix and was confidently taking and making a lot of shots, less so when he continued to confidently take a lot of shots he was no longer making. Chambers played five more unremarkable seasons after leaving Phoenix before retiring in 1998, and is currently a community relations representative for the Suns.

Walter Davis

Achievements as a Sun:

After winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 1976, the 6'6" Davis was selected by the Suns with the 5th overall pick in the 1977 draft, went on to win Rookie of the Year in 1978, make six all-star games and retire as the franchise career-leading scorer. How great was Walter Davis? He is still referred to on the Suns page as the best pure shooter in team history, and was worthy of four excellent nicknames from Al McCoy: "Sweet D", "Greyhound", "The Candyman" and, my personal favorite, "The Man with the Velvet Touch". A fluid, elite athlete, Davis scored at least 20 PPG in six seasons of his Suns career, the team made the playoffs in each of his first eight seasons, winning at least 50 games four times and making the conference finals twice.


How he departed:

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Walter Davis developed a drug problem, twice spent time in rehab, and was at the center of a team drug scandal in which Davis ratted out three other players who were still on the roster and two who had recently departed, to avoid being prosecuted himself. This was one of the lowest moments in franchise history, quite possibly the lowest. In case you were wondering what would cause a team to allow its all-time leading scorer to walk away at the end of his contract without seriously attempting to re-sign him, now you know! The relationship between Davis and the Suns was too badly damaged to continue. He went on to play four more NBA seasons with the Nuggets and Blazers, then was inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor in 2004, after time had healed the wounds.

Part II will include Connie Hawkins, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Dick Van Arsdale and Paul Westphal, and be posted later this week. I originally intended to post this as a single piece but, as you can tell, there is simply too much content. Fellow old-time Suns fans out there, please feel free to add memories you have of these players. And I hope you young whippersnapper fans can appreciate this team history, too. They rise from the ashes in the next group.