Dear Phoenix Suns,
As a lifelong Suns fan going back to the late 1980’s, this is my team. There is no sport nor franchise that I am more committed to or interested in. Basketball is art. The court is the canvas. The brush that was wielded by Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne, Dario Saric, Torrey Craig, Frank Kaminsky, Langston Galloway, Abdel Nader, E’Twaun Moore, Jalen Smith, and Ty-shon Alexander painted a masterpiece in 2020-21.
The games may result in wins and losses, but there’s beauty in the struggle. And the Phoenix Suns have struggled for a long time. We know the drought. I’ve lived through the Bledsoe debacle and the Cannon minutes. I’ve felt what 19 wins brings. I know the pain of hoping Josh Jackson is the future of the franchise.
This season was different. This season was special. This season was memorable. This season lived up to it’s marketing moniker: #WeAreTheValley.
I mentioned the following analogy on our podcast, which was tough to record, right after the season ended for the Suns. Try to follow my train of thought here.
When I view this season through the lens of how it impacted the city of Phoenix and the Suns fanbase, I am reminded of the Meredith Wilson musical The Music Man.
Professor Harold Hill, a traveling salesman and con man, comes to River City, Iowa and promises to organize a boy’s band for the city. In the process of ordering uniforms and band instruments for those who are willing to give him their money, the sleepy Iowa town becomes engaged and excited with the possibility of seeing their children march down the city streets whilst trumpeting, bassooning, and playing “76 Trombones”.
In the end it was all a farce, or so Harold Hill believed. He was never a band leader, just someone who collected the money and planned to skip town. But, as he famously states, his “foot got caught in the door”. While he fell in love with River City, Iowa (and Miss Marian the Librarian), so too did the town for him.
Shirley Jones reminds a young Ron Howard that, even though the brass band couldn’t play music, Harold Hill changed the attitude River City. “It all happened,” she states, “just like he said. The lights and the flags and the colors and the cymbals...the way every kid in this town walked around here the last three weeks, and looked and acted.”
That was Phoenix, Arizona this summer. We were River City.
Valley flags were flying, Just Sports couldn’t keep gear stocked because of how fast the community was consuming it, the arena was packed with joyously chanting fans, and our social media feeds were filled with friends and family routing for the Suns. Casual fan or not, everyone rallied behind this team all the way to the NBA Finals.
Cars around town had “Go Suns” and “Suns in 4” drawn on their windows with white shoe polish. People would pass me in the park while walking my dogs, see my Suns hat, and express their excitement for the upcoming game. Coming out of a global pandemic, the Suns’ play and dedication to quality basketball gave us an opportunity to be a community again. We had a common alliance that brought positivity to a negative world.
So I say, “thank you”.
Thank you, Suns, for reminding everyone that this is a sports town. For re-engaging with your fanbase. For getting us through the scorching summer days. For giving us something to look forward to when the night cooled to 105°.
Thank you for catching the eye of young fans who will now become lifers. Seeing kids walking around in Booker jerseys rather than Curry jerseys is a pleasant change of pace.
Thank you for every night you took the court, for every ounce of sweat you perspired, for every shot you took, for every rebound you grabbed, for every pregame dance and postgame reflection.
Thank you for creating a culture that will breed success for years to come. For empowering James Jones to generate a roster that is built in his image. For entrusting Monty Williams to lead these men. For doing it the right way.
Thank you to the Phoenix Suns’ marketing team. Your engagement this season was best-in-class. From funny memes to vulnerable moments, you were the backbone of this run. The design of the Valley jerseys, which was absolutely fantastic, aligned with the success of the team much like it did in 1993. Timing is everything, right?
Thank you, Suns, for exceeding our expectations this season. Thank you for bringing winning basketball back to the Valley. Thank you for beating LeBron and the Lakers in the playoffs. Thank you for sweeping the Nuggets. Thank you for dismantling the psyche of Pat Bev to the point in which he broke. Thank you for extending our basketball season through mid-July.
As the dust settles and we look back on this memorable season, from the opening tip to the Valley Oop, from the Chris Paul acquisition to the NBA Finals, I can’t help but smile. These years are special. I’ve been blessed to write for Bright Side and talk about the team via the Suns JAM Session Podcast. I’ve never felt more engaged with a team and never felt more proud of their efforts.
Thank you for being fun to watch and a pleasure to cover. Thank you for rallying the Valley. Thank you for a year we will never forget.