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Round Table of Suns Memories, pt 1: Nash, Hill, Kidd, Welts and Scott all enter the Hall

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The Phoenix Suns have FIVE former members of the organization going into the Naismith Hall of Fame today.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Five former members of the Phoenix Suns organization are entering the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, September 7, 2018.

FIVE!

In fact, two of these dudes, Grant Hill and Steve Nash, were in the starting lineup for your Phoenix Suns the last time the Suns made the playoffs. That’s how long it’s been since the Suns made the playoffs, lol.

To kick off the festivities, our own long time contributor and family member, Mike Lisboa, made his way up to Springfield, MA, from his home in Vermont. He attended the jacket ceremony/press conference on Thursday and toured the Hall of Fame itself.

Here are some of Mike’s tweets from the day.

Thanks for sharing, Mike!

Now let’s get down to it.

We here at Bright Side, who’ve been covering the Suns since 2006 and watching them since (for some of us) since as far back as the 1970s, would love to share some of our favorite memories and thoughts on the Suns new inductees into the Hall of Fame.

We are proud to have contributions from not only some of the current BSotS staff, but also some of our former writers including Rollin Mason, Mike Lisboa, Seth Pollack and Sean Sullivan.

We are also very lucky to get thoughts from current Suns and NAZ Suns voice, Jon Bloom, as well as long-time Suns employee Greg Esposito (who now contributes to Bright Side and the Solar Panel to keep in touch with reality).

Let’s go!


RICK WELTS (2002-2011 with Suns)


2018 NBA Awards - Red Carpet Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Turner Sports

Not sure if you remember Rick, but he’s been a ground breaker his entire life, and some of that intersected with the Suns thanks to the Colangelos (9 of his 40 years in the NBA).

In addition to his overall contributions to the revitalization of the league’s image and popularity, his notable accomplishments at the NBA include the creation of NBA All-Star Weekend in 1984 as well as the marketing program for USA Basketball for the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team.” Along with Val Ackerman, Welts was named “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek in 1998 for his role in launching the WNBA.

Wow. Okay, yeah, he’s a Hall of Fame person all right.


CHARLIE SCOTT (1971-75 with Suns)


Pedigree: Scott was a 5-time All-Star in the ABA and NBA. He originally played for the Virginia Vipers (two All-Star games plus an MVP award) before joining the Phoenix Suns for four seasons and then playing for the Celtics, Lakers and Nuggets. He won a championship with the Celtics in 1976, after being traded for some guy named Paul Westphal (who’d won a ring with the Celtics two years before). Anyone remember the 1976 Finals? Anyone? With the Suns, Scott went to 3 All-Star games in 4 years, averaging nearly 25 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.

Dave King: All I know about Charlie Scott is that he was talked about as “Dr. J before Dr. J”. Isn’t all we NEED to know?

Mike Lisboa: Here is the only thing I know about him off the top of my head: on the day I was born he was the leading scorer in a Suns win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (who were led by the improbably named Bingo Smith).


JASON KIDD (1996-2001 with Suns)


Pedigree: NBA Champion, 12-time All-Star, acquired in a rush then traded in a rush five years later. Three All-Star games in between.

What is your absolute favorite (not negative) memory of Jason Kidd in a Suns uniform?

Sean Sullivan: I can’t say I have one stand out memory of Jason Kidd (I’ll probably remember an obvious one when I’m done typing his), but I remember a lot of fun games and good basketball.

Mike: Opting out of the Kidd Era because it is a giant blind spot for me in Suns history. I’m not sure I ever liked Jason Kidd. The only things I remember about his time in Phoenix are frosted tips and domestic violence. Hard pass.

Deadpoolio: Not negative? Hmm, that rules out his bleached hair (among other things). I’m actually going to say the rubber band he used to wear around his wrist. When I saw that, I started wearing a rubber band around my wrist when I played basketball, hoping it would help me play just like him. The crazy part? It worked! At least that’s what I tell myself to this day.

Honorable mention goes to that panther tattoo that would peek out from underneath his jersey.

Greg Esposito: Alright, in reality it had to be him being the inspiration for Eminem’s look. The bleach blonde hair he rocked in the playoffs is an image chemically burned into my brain much the way whatever chemicals he used to do that must have singed his hair follicles.

Rollin Mason (long time BSotS family member): When he returned from a broken ankle in the playoffs and had blonde hair for some reason.

Jon Bloom: There isn’t one specific Suns moment standing out, so I’m going to go with a couple that far proceed Kidd’s time in the Valley. Growing up the in the Bay Area, there was not another athlete in my generation that got as much hype in high school sports as J-Kidd. So much so that I still have a vivid memory of seeing a highlight of him dunking in a game at St. Joseph’s High School as a freshman. The very next day at my middle school, it was the talk of 8th grade.

A few years later I was at a Cal football game with my parents (the alums) and recognized Kidd from across a parking garage. I pointed him out to them and they to this day retell the story of how fired up I was to say hello to him and let him know the excitement we had that he was going to be a Golden Bear. Then, less than a year later, my dad and I found ourselves in Chicago on a visit to Northwestern prior to a trip to Syracuse. We timed it just right to witness still one of my favorite moments of all time, freshman phenom Jason Kidd leading our beloved Golden Bears past LSU with a late bucket before dethroning fellow HOF inductee Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley and the defending National Champion Duke Blue Devils at the old Rosemont Horizon.


Do you remember where you were the day Kidd was traded to the Suns from the Mavericks? What was your reaction at the time?

Dave: I was sitting on my in-laws couch, bored out of my mind, when I saw the report on TV. It was at that moment I left the couch (mentally) and began thinking of all the lineup permutations and how exciting it would be to watch Jason Kidd running the show for the Suns, taking over the reins from KJ into the next great point guard era. I was in basketball nerd heaven from that point on.

Sean: I was working at Motorola at the time and one of my coworkers told me. I was upset and thought the Suns were making a mistake giving up on him, despite the off the court issues (and despite the fact that they were awful).

D-Pooly: Ahh, I remember it like it was yesterday…as in, I also don’t remember what I did yesterday.

Jon: I do have a vague memory of my immediate reaction, nearly full disclosure, I was in the middle of what was a very fun trip to Memphis to call the action at the 1996 Liberty Bowl for the Syracuse student radio station during my senior year. I remember having a bunch of people ask me how fired up I was when I got back to campus since apparently it didn’t go unnoticed in the gym that I’d regularly show up to play pick up ball in my navy blue and gold #5 Cal jersey or a purple #7 Suns jersey. I was always reppin’ my two favorite point guards who were now about to share the court for my favorite NBA squad...so I guess you could say I was pretty stoked.

Rollin: Pretty sure I was home. The simultaneous realization that Jason Kidd was a Sun but Michael Finley was gone was altogether exciting and painful.

Espo: I don’t remember exactly where I was but I know I heard about it from KGME 1360 and pretty sure it was the Gambo and Ash show. I remember wondering “why do the Suns need three point guards in KJ, Kidd and that young Canadian kid Nash?” Apparently that’s a question we’re destined to repeat as Suns fans. I was excited though because Kidd was a young genuine star and we desperately needed it after Barkley flipped the Suns and their fans the bird and forced his way to Houston.


What did you appreciate more, when Kidd was a Sun: his passing or his defense, or something else?

Jon: As a dude who has always played point guard since picking up the game in elementary school (albeit at a highly limited athletic level), there have been many great passers I’ve admired on the basketball court, but only 2 guys had me on the edge of my seat waiting to get a glimpse at their next jaw dropping dish. Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. The combination of court vision, handle, strength, speed, and accuracy of delivery along with an unsurpassed creativity in delivery methods is a combination of skills that’s as rare as you’ll find in sports.

Sean: His passing and defense were next level. I think Kidd gets overlooked because of how great Nash was, and to some extent it’s understandable. But Kidd helped take the Suns to the playoffs for five seasons in a row.

Jim: He was just a pretty complete overall player. This ties into my other answer, but the Suns have really been blessed to have three of the best point guards in league history on their team... and all with a unique style. Kidd was obviously the strongest and best defender of the three. Kevin Johnson the quickest and best scorer. Nash the best shooter and passer.

Kidd is second all time in career assists, Nash is third and KJ is 22nd, but if you look at career assists per game three are actually 7th (KJ), 8th (Kidd) and 9th (Nash) in NBA career assists per game. Just excellent distributors that also had other great strengths.

D-Pooly: I just appreciated that he was good. However, nowadays I appreciate that he was part of the first-ever point guard glut in Suns history.

Rollin: Leading the break off his own rebound. No one could grab and go like he could, in any era. Okay, maybe LeBron.

Espo: His passing. Kidd was like that pallet cleansing sorbet they give you at a fancy restaurant before the main course. He helped give us an appreciation for miraculous passes before Nash came back, ironically— in the Alanis Morissette sense — from the Mavericks.


Where does Kidd rank on all-time Suns point guard list?

Rollin: Securely behind Nash, and not just because Kevin Johnson did weird things with minors. Kidd really was that good and that complete.

Espo: Third. The pyramid has Dennis Johnson, Kyle Macy and Goran at the base, Gail Goodrich and Paul Westphal (technically played two seasons at PG) then Kidd, KJ and Nash at the top.

Sean: I can only speak on my favorite point guards that I personally watched. I’d put him at number three on my list behind Nash and KJ.

Geoff: So, if we’re judging them on their overall body of work, I think Kidd is the best PG to have ever put on a Suns jersey. Kidd is probably among the most balanced PGs of the modern era. In terms of Suns tenure, though, he’s 3rd, behind Nash and K.J. The fact that he wasn’t here all that long, and the way he went out, both diminish him a bit in my mind.

Jon: This is a tough one for me as unlike KJ and Nash, Jason’s best years came when he wasn’t in Phoenix and he’ll be most remembered for his time elsewhere when it comes down to it, just like he is for me as you can see above.

Jim: I would say solidly in third. He’s fifth all time in team assists, but Alvan Adams and Walter Davis are two of the players ahead of him. Nash is obviously #1 and I’d put Kevin Johnson in at #2. Kidd had a better career, but KJ throwing up 20/10 seasons was a thing to behold. Plus, The KJ years were way better overall than the Kidd years. Backcourt 2000 just never came together.

D-Pooly: He’s not in the Ring of Honor. Other point guards are. I’ll just leave it at that.


GRANT HILL (2007-2012 with Suns)


NBA Pedigree: 7-time All-Star (6 of first 7 years in NBA before injuries hit), drinks Sprite

What is your absolute favorite memory of Grant Hill in a Suns uniform?

Mike: His block on Jerryd Bayless, which prompted one of my all time favorite tweets:

Seth: There’s only one play - Grant’s block on Bayless in the 2010 series against Portland. Bayless’ career never recovered.

I loved talking to Grant and just being around him. He’s genuinely one of the best human beings I’ve ever encountered in every possible way you could define greatness. He’s is peak human. I heard him on the Woj podcast the other day talking about having political ambitions. Sign me up. I’d follow that man anywhere. Oh, and that opinion is in no way influenced by the complement he paid to my brown Nike low tops I used to wear with slacks and a sport coat. I get school boy giggles that GRANT HILL LIKED MY SHOES. I still wear those shoes....obviously.

Espo: Hill playing all 82 games in the 2008-09 season. After watching this guy go from being a potential heir apparent to Jordan to a guy whose team doctors butchered in Orlando, it was amazing to see him play every game in a season.

There are very few people as nice and genuine as Hill and he deserved that redemption.

Rollin: Stuffing Jerryd Bayless at the rim in the 2010 playoffs. History might forget how obnoxiously cocky young Bayless was (despite not ever being very good), but I won’t.

Brendon: I had this image in my head, probably fed by my parents and uncles telling me how great Grant Hill had once been, of Hill as this hoops sage. He was one of the smoothest, most fundamentally sound perimeter players I’ve ever watched, and something about his old-man game drew me in as a young basketball fan. All that said, the aura of Hill grew to a crescendo when, at one of the only Suns games I attended as a kid, I got a free drawstring bag with Hill’s name and No. 33 ironed onto the back. That little stuff is what makes being a sports fan as a kid awesome, and my wonder about Hill made it all the better.

D-Pooly: There are many great memories of Grant Hill. His professionalism. His character. The positive example he set. Those dunks on defenders that came out of nowhere. But my favorite memory of Hill is when, during the 2011-12 season, he referred to Shaquille O’Neal as “the great urban philosopher.”

Sean: Like Jason Kidd, it’s hard for me to remember just one moment or memory. Instead, I just remember how unexpectedly awesome he ended up being on the Suns after having such an injury ridden start to his NBA career. I think Grant Hill player his best total years in Phoenix, and I loved every minute of it.

Jon: I don’t have one specific Phoenix performance to share, but I have everlasting memories of a dude in his late 30’s zooming up the court and filling the lane in a flash for a bucket on the break and then without delay astonishingly getting back and making a stellar defensive play on the other end.

What I’d most like to share is a story from where Grant and I both got our professional starts (his coming in 1994 with the Pistons, mine 3 years later for Sportsradio 1130, WDFN “The Fan” in Detroit). As many likely remember, Grant was sent to Orlando in a sign and trade back in August of 2000. He was coming off averaging a career high 25.8 ppg in 74 games the previous season, his 5th All Star appearance in his first 6 years in the league. The Motor City absolutely adored the young man from Reston, Virginia and boy did he love them right back. So much so, that the same day after he was dealt, he took the time to drive down to our little broke garage of a station off Jefferson Ave in the D to go on the air with us and take calls from fans wishing him the best for what went on for several hours! Here’s the visual proof from that day now more than 18 years later.

(pictured left to right Bob Wojnowski, me, Eric Pate, Grant Hill, Sean Baligian, Michelle Depue)


How good could Grant Hill have been, had he not almost died from that injury when he was with Orlando?

Espo: He could have been top 10 all-time. In his prime he was amazing and what they were trying to build in Orlando could have been a true contender. Even post injury Hill was impactful despite no longer having the explosive athleticism or ability to just dominate guys. His earlier combination of pure skills and high game IQ would have propelled him towards the top of most lists.

Jon: There is no telling. The sky has always been the limit with Grant and I still believe his greatest days are likely ahead of him off the court. As great of a player Hill was, he is widely considered an even better person. Credit to his folks and a strong support system for setting him up for this life, but credit to the man for delivering the goods!

Jim: I’d put him in the same boat as Scottie Pippen probably... which would make him top 25 of all time (give or take). The best impact comp in today’s NBA would probably be pre-all the weirdness Kawhi Leonard. Just in terms of having an impact on both ends of the court and being a fundamentally sound player. His story wasn’t as tragic as say... Brandon Roy’s, but Hill’s injuries robbed the second half of his prime years.

It’s a testament to how great he was, and a testament to the Suns league best training staff, that he was able to extend his career the way he did. Danny Manning was another Sun that still made a big impact after a career altering injury. He could have probably been in that top 25 too.

Seth: It’s one of the great sports “could have been” stories. But if it hadn’t happened he wouldn’t have came back and re-made his career in Phoenix as a durable vet defensive role player.

Rollin: Check out his numbers from the 2000/01 season, at age 27. A few more of those and he might’ve set some records for LeBron to break.

Brendon: He was one of the people in that generation where fans and media couldn’t help but call him the next Jordan, along with Kobe, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. But Hill’s two-way play and explosiveness make that claim slightly more justified than for some on that list, in my eyes. Highlights of Hill blowing past a defender behind the arc and rising for a dunk at will are incredible. Really makes you wonder...

Geoff: 22/8/6. That was Grant Hill’s average stat line over his first 6 years in the league. Pretty efficient, too - he had a TS% of 54% over that same period. The only guy to average those types of numbers for his career was Larry Bird. You have to relax those numbers to get LeBron and Oscar Robertson into the equation. The scariest thing? Hill hadn’t really entirely hit his peak when he got hurt. He would develop into a better shooter AFTER the injury. We would have been talking about Hill as one of the greatest players of all time.

Mike: Man... if Grant Hill stays healthy, we probably never see him as a Sun. We know how good he could have been because he was already that good with the Detroit Pistons. He would have been better longer. Maybe a top 10 player historically, at least until Lebron and Steph pushed him out.

Sean: People often compared the young Grant Hill to Michael Jordan. It’s hard to say if he every would have been able to get to that level, but he was outstanding before the injury and still great afterward.

D-Pooly: Top 10. I mean, he’s in the Hall of Fame even with the injuries. But he’ll always be the No. 1 Sprite endorser, so there’s that.


Where does Grant Hill rank in Suns history? (you decide the criteria on this)

Jon: I think he will always be mentioned when people talk about guys who rejuvenated their careers after brutal injuries, and certainly that story line will be shared more here in Phoenix than his other stops in the league. A lot of people like to bring up Shaq when they mention the mythical fountain of youth created & fostered by future HOF trainer Aaron Nelson and his fellow Training Staff Mafia members, but if you ask me, Grant Hill should be used as exhibit A in that case. I will also remember him as one of the best guys to come through that gym who along with his fellow inductees this year make me proud to be a lifelong fan and now a 12 year employee of this team.

Speaking of that run, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention a guy who is partially responsible for giving me my shot. When it comes to “salt of the earth” type guys, G-Hill is one, and former Suns President and current Warriors head honcho Rick Welts is without question another in that same class (pun intended). Congrats to all of this year’s inductees, may this be a sign of more things to celebrate for a fan base that I know is hungry to do just that!

Rollin: Tough call since he was only a (very good) role player by the time he got to Phoenix. For me he’s somewhere between Rex Chapman and Raja Bell.

Mike: He probably belongs in the role player Ring of Distinction. In terms of pure production, he was very good in his time in Phoenix, but I’m not sure he even cracks a top 30 Suns of all-time list. But he also had an ethic and gravitas in Phoenix that transcended stats. So, just above Mark West, which is the highest compliment I can pay any Suns role player.

Seth: I don’t do rankings but he’s at the top of my list of favorite later career players who re-made their game in Phoenix after touching greatness elsewhere and suffering some injuries. He’s definitely above Shaq on that list.

Espo: I love Hill as much as the next guy but he doesn’t rank that highly for me. In reality he only averaged 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in purple and orange. He was a great leader and a feel good story but he wasn’t an all-time great. He’d be in the Danny Manning, Shaq, Antonio McDyess category for me. Quality player, nice run but his best days came in another uniform.

Sean: My criteria is going to be based on my personal favorites. I’d put Grant Hill just behind Nash, Barkley, Amar’e, KJ, Chambers, Majerle, Marion, and Kidd.

Brendon: Hill isn’t associated with the Suns enough to be in the Ring of Honor or have his jersey retired, but I think people will always remember that part of his career fondly. The man looked close to the end several times before coming to Phoenix in 2007, then played a big role in one of the best playoff runs in franchise history, then basically finished out his career with the organization. And that drawstring bag won’t harm his memory in my house. He’s a great Sun.

Geoff: I really wish the answer to this was higher, but the reality is Hill joined the Suns as the ship was about to sink. He was not the cause of the sinking by any stretch of the imagination. You could argue that over his time with the team - 07/08 to 11/12 - he was the third best player on the team (largely because Amar’e left, but still). Regardless, however, the ship sunk. Realistically, Hill is probably a top 20 or 25 player in Suns history.

Jim: Trying to be candid here, probably not that high. He was a great character guy... is a great character guy... but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t rank in the top 10 in any career Suns statistical category... and guys like Lou Amundson, Ed Pinckney and Jake Voskuhl do. He was mainly a role player, a very good one, but wasn’t even on what I feel were the best Suns teams... even from that era, let alone all time.

I would put him a lot higher if he bought the team from Sarver. He should do that.

D-Pooly: In the top 20. Easily one of the best Suns to not be in the Ring of Honor. He ranks in the top 30 in franchise history for points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, games, and minutes played.


Come back later today for memories of Two-Time MVP Steve Nash....