Today’s story, brightsiders, is about Devin Booker.
One of the greatest players ever to don a Phoenix Suns uniform at any point in their careers, and certainly one of the greatest ever to make Phoenix his home for his entire career.
That he somehow survived that embarrassing, agonizing rebuild to become one of the league’s greatest players on one a perennial contender without having to change uniforms is mind boggling.
Allow me a moment of digression. I promise I’ll get to the point soon.
I remember when, during the dark days of the 10-year rebuild, my go-to story content was recognizing the Suns young players’ exploits on the court. That’s all we had, folks.
Remember when Dragan Bender, just after turning 20 years old, became the youngest player ever to record at least six three-point makes, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a single game? I do.
Or when, in the same game, Josh Jackson became one of only five 20-years olds ever to record at least three three-point makes, 10 rebounds, five assists and at least one block in a single game. Same night, same game story.
Or when 20-year old Marquese Chriss became one of the four youngest players ever to record at least three three-point makes and five blocks in a single game? Or, in the same season, when he became the third-youngest player ever to have amassed 100 each of blocks, threes and steals?
Or when, the season before, the Suns played four teenagers in the same game (Devin Booker, Chriss, Bender, Derrick Jones Jr.) and once fielded the youngest starting lineup in league history?
Turns out it’s a bad thing to hand big minutes and big roles to a bunch of super young players at the same time. While they were ticking off youth-based milestones, they weren’t learning any good habits from each other and the Suns were losing 77% of their games.
Somehow, Devin Booker survived all that.
Just five seasons later, as those guys are all hitting their mid-twenties athletic primes, only Devin Booker and Derrick Jones Jr. even remain in the league. Chriss, Bender and Jackson (not to mention Okobo, Ulis, Ennis, Goodwin, etc.) all washed out. You’ll see DJJ play his Torrey-Craig-like role on Wednesday night when the Bulls come to town.
I take us down this memory lane to point out the one guy who got to “see the beauty in all this”.
Devin. Armani. Booker.
He waited out the franchise melt-down, waited out losing 77% of his games over a three-year stretch, waited out being snubbed three years too long for the All-Star game (skipped entirely in 2018, injury-replacement in 2020 and 2021), waited out being called a ‘looter in a riot’ for racking up stats on a bad team.
He’s a true Cinderella story. He didn’t even start for his college team, wasn’t born with freakish athletic gifts, entered the NBA as a spot-up shooter whose ceiling looked more like a shorter Kyle Korver than anyone else.
Yet, eight years later, Devin Booker is one of the best 10 players in the entire NBA.
Last year, he finished 4th in the MVP voting, made first-team All-NBA and was truly voted to his first All-Star game (the previous two were as injury-replacement). Along the way, he won three West Player of the Week awards.
This year, he’s finally getting the accolades without caveat. No more whispers. No more questions. No more skepticism.
And on Monday night, Book had one of the best games of his career.
44 points on 60% shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and career-high tying 6 steals in a road win over a good Kings team (10-9, 7th-best in the West).
Sure, it’s only a November regular season game. The game itself didn’t mean much. Book twice posted 40-point games in the NBA FINALS, for chrissake. He had a 40-point triple double in the Western Conference Finals. He’s now got 20 games with 40+ in the regular season. In 7 of those, he had a higher shooting percentage than last night.
So Monday’s game may not go down as one the best of his career — heck, we won’t even remember it a week from now — but if you stack up the markers it’s one of the best stat lines in NBA history.
Only 8 players in league history have ever posted at least 40 points, 4 assists, 8 rebounds and 6 steals in a single game. If you add in the 60% shooting, no one’s done it since pre-Suns Charles Barkley did it 34 years ago. If you up the points marker to 44, along with the 60% shooting, NO ONE has ever done it before.
He did that in a win against a winning team on the road, facing constant double teams and half-court blitzes, without his All-Star running mate by his side.
All Book would say after the game was, “That’s just what it is. Kind of what I’m being paid to do.”
Watch all his comments here, and click through to Duane’s twitter account for so much more.
We are witnessing greatness in the Valley of the Sun, folks.
Devin Booker is a perennial MVP candidate, with a name more synonymous with the Phoenix Suns franchise than anyone since Steve Nash.