The seats at the Footprint Center were not at capacity on Friday night as the Phoenix Suns’ season came to an end. The miserable manner in which they lost the game, being down by 30 points to the Denver Nuggets at the half and never recovering, led many spectators to leave early.
What they didn’t realize is that as the final seconds fell off the clock, it wasn’t just the end of the 2022-23 season for Phoenix. It was the end of an Era and Phoenix Suns basketball.
Al McCoy, the longest tenured broadcaster in NBA history, was wrapping up his final broadcast for 98.7 Arizona Sports radio. Dressed in a beige suit, the 90 year-old sports announcer was calling his last game after 51 years of broadcasting Phoenix Suns games.
Despite the loss, a slow rumble arose from the crowd when McCoy was shown on the big screen. For all of us, he is the voice of Phoenix Suns basketball. For all of us, we have memories of his signature catchphrases, quick-witted, announcing style, and description of the game and sport and team that we love.
Al McCoy was born and raised in rural Iowa, where he developed an early interest in athletics. He studied journalism at Drake University and graduated with a degree in journalism. McCoy began his broadcasting career in the early 1950s after finishing his studies and moved to Phoenix in 1958 as he covered the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, the Phoenix Giants.
McCoy would broadcast for a plethora of local sports, from Arizona State University basketball and football to the Western Hockey League’s Phoenix Roadrunners.
In 1972, McCoy’s talent caught the attention of the Phoenix Suns, who were in search of a new play-by-play announcer. Al McCoy was hired, and little did he know that this would mark the beginning of a remarkable partnership that would last for over five decades.
McCoy quickly became an integral part of the Phoenix Suns organization. Over the years, his signature catchphrases like “Shazam!” and “Suns win! Suns win!” have become synonymous with the team’s success.
He has witnessed the ups and downs of the Suns’ franchise, including their memorable runs to the NBA Finals in 1976, 1993, and 2021.
What set McCoy apart was his ability to captivate listeners with his descriptive and energetic style of commentary. Whether it’s a crucial three-pointer, a thunderous slam dunk, or a game-winning shot, McCoy’s voice carries the excitement and passion of the moment. His deep knowledge of the game, combined with his love for the Suns, endeared him to generations of fans.
Throughout his career, Al McCoy has received numerous accolades and honors for his contributions to sports broadcasting. He has been recognized with multiple awards, including the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, the Lindsey Nelson Outstanding Sportscaster Award in 2010, and induction into the Suns Ring of Honor in 2018.
Beyond his work as a broadcaster, McCoy is known for his genuine and humble personality. He has always been approachable and gracious towards fans, always taking the time to engage with them. His professionalism, dedication, and longevity in the industry have made him a beloved figure both in Phoenix and among basketball enthusiasts worldwide.
Perhaps the way that Phoenix went out, once again disappointing in heartbreaking fashion, was poetic. In his time, as a broadcaster, Phoenix did not win one championship. While they made three NBA Finals appearances, they could never, “win one for Al”. The game represented a talent laden franchise that has lacked the ability to close.
I was at the game on Friday, arriving too early as I typically do. I seized the chance to meet the legend, for I knew that this could be my final chance.
Meeting McCoy, his soft handshake and mild hospitable manner, was a kind reminder of the human connection. It evoked personal emotion. My father, a Phoenix native since 1946, passed away last summer. He too was a Phoenix Suns fan. He too knew Suns’ basketball through the descriptions of McCoy.
Al’s departure signifies the loss of connective tissue that we have with each other and we have with the past. No matter your opinion of the team, from their roster moves to their management, coaching philosophies to roster construction, we all had Mr. McCoy.
Dad would’ve loved to hear the story of how I met Al.
Many have debated – or at least it’s a topic on your favorite Suns’ podcast – as to who deserves a bronze statue in front of the Footprint Center. Is it Barkley? How about Nash? Someday it could be Booker?
It’s Al McCoy. What he has meant to this franchise, to this city, and to the NBA is unquantifiable. We shall all miss hearing his accounts of the Suns. He was a legend in every sense of the word.
Enjoy your retirement, Al. Suns basketball will never sound the same.