It all started in the Bubble.
The Phoenix Suns weren’t supposed to even be there. And well, neither was Cam Payne. Many predicted they’d go 0-8 and that it was pointless for them to even show up. They were the underdogs that had nothing to lose with a bunch of “misfits” and young players trying to make a name for themselves.
Little did they all know that this run from the Suns in Orlando would ultimately be the beginning of a new chapter of Phoenix Suns basketball that directly led us to where we are today.
After what was described as a “disastrous” stint in Chicago, Payne was seeking a second chance. He played overseas and in the G League trying to work his way back into the association. It’s a humbling experience for a former lottery pick to go through, but he fought his way back to the league and earned another shot.
Phoenix signed “The Haboob”/“Turbo”, or whatever you want to call him, as guard depth heading into the bubble in 2020.
It felt like it was merely a depth/insurance signing that would likely not have much impact in the short or long term. Boy were we all wrong.
Cam Payne was a major reason why the Suns went 8-0 during their magical bubble run.
He averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.0 steals on a .612 true shooting percentage. His combination of efficiency, energy, and game-changing bursts of offensive firepower changed the dynamic of the Suns’ backcourt. He and Jevon Carter claimed Suns fans’ hearts in Orlando.
Ricky Rubio, Cameron Payne, and Jevon Carter provided a nice combination of leadership and energy that helped form Phoenix’s newfound identity.
They wanted respect from their opponents after being the laughingstock of the league for several years, and they went out and EARNED it.
A Performance for the Ages
The 29-point, 9-assist, 0-turnover gem from Cam Payne in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals to guide Phoenix to a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers will not be forgotten. His performance put them in position to pull off one of the most iconic plays in Suns history, “The Valley Oop”.
I highly recommend watching this video if you have a moment to take a fun trip down memory lane. Phoenix does not go up 2-0 without CP3 if it weren’t for Payne.
Payne unfortunately missed quite a bit of time the past two seasons and failed to return to his 2021 form. He had some flashes where he looked like his old self, but ultimately, he fell out of favor for a team that has plenty of guards.
He missed a total of 58 games in the past two seasons combined and saw a drop-off in his shooting percentages across the board.
A rumor popped up last week that Payne was all but on his way out, so the news that they dumped his contract hardly came as shocking, but it was still the end of an era in Suns basketball.
When you think of the “Valley Boys” while Kelly Oubre Jr. may be the first one that comes to mind, Cam Payne also played a big part in that era.
Love you Phx!— Cameron Payne (@campayne) July 16, 2023
We will always remember the Bubble. We will always remember Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The energy, the dances, the passion, the upside down LA hats, and his ability to get under the skin of his opponent by providing that infectious energy.
He embraced the city. He built relationships with local sports teams (and players), and repped them just about any chance he could. It was all authentic, too. The Suns took a chance on Cam Payne, and he did not forget it. He found a home.
Take care of him, San Antonio.
Drop your favorite Cam Payne memory below in the comments, Suns fans!