The Phoenix Suns are an American professional basketball team based in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA), as a member of the league's Western Conference Pacific Division. The Suns are the only team in their division not based in California. The Suns play their home games at the Phoenix Suns Arena.
The franchise began play in 1968 as an expansion team, and their early years were shrouded in mediocrity, but their fortunes changed in the 1970s, where, after partnering long-term guard Dick Van Arsdale and center Alvan Adams with Paul Westphal, the Suns reached the 1976 NBA Finals, in what is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. However, after failing to capture a championship, the Suns would rebuild around Walter Davis for a majority of the 1980s, until the acquisition of Kevin Johnson in 1988.
Under Johnson, and after trading for perennial NBA All-Star Charles Barkley, and combined with the output of Tom Chambers and Dan Majerle, the Suns reached the playoffs for a franchise-record thirteen consecutive appearances and remained a regular title contender throughout the 1990s, and reached the 1993 NBA Finals. However, the team would again fail to win a championship, and entered into another period of mediocrity until the early part of the 2000s.
In 2004, the Suns reacquired Steve Nash, and immediately returned into playoff contention. With Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar'e Stoudemire, and under head coach Mike D'Antoni, the Suns became renowned worldwide for their quick, dynamic offense, which led them to tie a franchise record in wins in the 2004–05 season. Two more top two Conference placements followed, but the Suns again failed to attain an NBA championship, and were forced into another rebuild.
The Suns own the NBA's seventh-best all-time winning percentage, and have the second highest winning percentage of any teams to have never won an NBA championship. 10 Hall of Famers have played for Phoenix, while two Suns, Barkley and Nash, have won the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award while playing for the team.
The Suns are the only one of Arizona's major professional sports franchises which uses "Phoenix" instead of "Arizona" as its geographical identifier. The National Football League's Arizona Cardinals and National Hockey League's Arizona Coyotes used "Phoenix" as their geographical identifier when they moved from other locations, but later changed to "Arizona". Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks have always used the state as its identifier.
The Suns were one of two franchises to join the NBA at the start of the 1968–69 season, alongside the Milwaukee Bucks from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were the first major professional sports franchise in the Phoenix market and in the entire state of Arizona, and remained the only one for the better part of 20 years (a Phoenix Roadrunners team played in the World Hockey Association from 1974 to 1977) until the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League relocated from St. Louis in 1988. The Suns played its first 24 seasons at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, called the "Madhouse on McDowell", located slightly northwest of downtown Phoenix. The franchise was formed by an ownership group led by Karl Eller, owner of a public enterprise, the investor Donald Pitt, Don Diamond, Bhavik Darji, Marvin Meyer, and Richard L. Bloch. Other owners with a minority stake consisted of entertainers, such as Andy Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Ed Ames. There were many critics, including then-NBA commissioner J. Walter Kennedy, who said that Phoenix was "too hot," "too small," and "too far away" to be considered a successful NBA market. This was despite the fact that the Phoenix metropolitan area was growing rapidly, and the Suns would have built-in geographical foes in places like in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
After continual prodding by Bloch (who became president of the Phoenix Suns), in 1968 the NBA Board of Governors granted franchises to Phoenix and Milwaukee on January 22, 1968 with an entry fee of $2 million. The Suns nickname was among 28,000 entries that were formally chosen in a name-the-team contest sponsored by The Arizona Republic, with the winner awarded $1,000 and season tickets for the inaugural season. Suns was preferred over Scorpions, Rattlers, Thunderbirds, Wranglers, Mavericks, Tumbleweeds, Mustangs and Cougars. Stan Fabe, who owned a commercial printing plant in Tucson, designed the team's first iconic logo for a mere $200; this was after the team paid $5,000 to a local artist to design the team's logo. However, they were disappointed with the results.
1968–1976: Early years
Jerry Colangelo, then a player scout, came over from the Chicago Bulls, a franchise formed two years earlier, as the Suns' first general manager at the age of 28, along with Johnny "Red" Kerr as head coach. Unlike the first-year success that Colangelo and Kerr had in Chicago, in which the Bulls finished with a first-year expansion record of 33 wins and a playoff berth (plus a Coach of the Year award for Kerr), Phoenix finished its first year at 16–66, and finished 25 games out of the final playoff spot.
Both Goodrich and Van Arsdale were selected to the All-Star Game in their first season with the Suns. Goodrich returned to his former team, the Lakers, after two seasons with the Suns, but Van Arsdale spent the rest of his playing days as a Sun and a one-time head coach for Phoenix.
The Suns' last-place finish that season led to a coin flip for the number-one overall pick for the 1969 NBA draft with the expansion-mate Bucks. Milwaukee won the flip, and the rights to draft UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), while Phoenix settled on drafting center Neal Walk from Florida. The 1969–70 season posted better results for the Suns, finishing 39–43, but losing to the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. The next two seasons (1970–71 and 1971–72), the Suns finished with 48- and 49-win seasons, but did not qualify for the playoffs in either year, and did not reach the playoffs again until 1976.
1975–1976: Trip to the NBA Finals
The 1975–76 season proved to be a pivotal year for the Suns as they made several key moves, including the offseason trade of former All-Star guard Charlie Scott to the Boston Celtics in exchange for guard Paul Westphal, a member of Boston's 1974 championship team. They also drafted center and eventual fan favorite Alvan Adams from the University of Oklahoma and guard Ricky Sobers of UNLV. The Suns and Buffalo Braves made a midseason trade, with Phoenix sending forward/center John Shumate to Buffalo in exchange for forward Garfield Heard.
Phoenix had an inconsistent regular season, starting out at 14–9 (then the best start in team history), then went 4–18 during a stretch where the team sustained several injuries (including Dick Van Arsdale breaking his right arm in a February game). The Suns then went 24–13 in the final 37 games to finish 42–40, clinching their first playoff spot since 1970. The Suns faced the Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, winning the series four games to two, and beat the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, four games to three, to advance to their first NBA Finals.
The Suns faced an experienced Celtics team, led by eventual Hall of Famers Dave Cowens and John Havlicek. Game five of the 1976 NBA Finals took place at Boston Garden, where the Suns came back from a 22-point first-half deficit to force overtime. Havlicek made what was supposed to be a game-winning basket, but due to fans rushing the floor before time officially expired, officials put one second back on the clock with Phoenix having possession of the ball, but under their own basket. Instead of attempting a desperation heave, the Suns' Westphal intentionally called a timeout that they did not have, a technical foul, giving the Celtics a free throw, which Jo Jo White converted to put them up 112–110. However, this advanced the ball to half-court, and once the Suns had possession, Garfield Heard made a buzzer-beating turnaround jump shot to force a third overtime. The Suns' hard-fought battle was short-lived, as Boston's reserve player Glenn McDonald scored six of his eight points in the third overtime to lead the Celtics to a 128–126 win. Boston eventually won the series in six games, clinching the championship at the Coliseum, defeating Phoenix in game six, 87–80.
1976–1988: From success to scandals
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Suns enjoyed several successful seasons, making the playoffs eight seasons in a row. Problems arose on and off the court in the mid-1980s. In 1987, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office indicted 13 people on drug-related charges, three of whom were active Suns' players James Edwards, Jay Humphries and Grant Gondrezick. These indictments were partially based on testimony from star player Walter Davis, who was given immunity. No defendants ever went to trial: two of the players went into a prosecution diversion program, while another received probation. Nevertheless, the scandal, although now perceived in many respects to be a witch hunt tarnished the reputation of the franchise both nationally and within the community. The scandal did provide an opening for general manager Jerry Colangelo to lead a group that bought the team from its owners for $44 million at the start of the 1987–88 season, a record at that time. With a drug scandal and the loss of promising young center Nick Vanos, who was killed in the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255, the franchise was in turmoil both on and off the court.
1988–1992: Kevin Johnson era
The Suns' luck began to turn around in 1988 with the acquisition of Kevin Johnson from the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Mark West and Tyrone Corbin, for All-Star power forward Larry Nance and Mike Sanders. This was the beginning of a franchise-record 13 consecutive playoff appearances. All-Star Tom Chambers came over from the Seattle SuperSonics (the first unrestricted free agent in NBA history), 1986 second round draft pick Jeff Hornacek continued to develop, and "Thunder" Dan Majerle was drafted with the 14th pick in the 1988 draft. Kurt Rambis was added from the Charlotte Hornets in 1989, and the team upset the Los Angeles Lakers in five games during the playoffs that season, before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. In 1990–91, the Suns went 55–27 but lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz, 3–1. In 1991–92, the Suns went 53–29. Having sent four players to the All-Star Game in the previous two seasons (Chambers, Johnson, Hornacek, and Majerle), the Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs in three games in the first round of the 1992 NBA Playoffs. The Suns then were defeated in five games to the Trail Blazers in the Conference Semifinals. The series was punctuated by a game four in which the Suns lost in double overtime 153–151 (the highest scoring game in NBA Playoff history to-date). That game was the last Suns game ever played at the Coliseum.
1992–1996: The Charles Barkley era
In 1992, the Suns moved into their new arena in downtown Phoenix, the America West Arena. The arena is occasionally referred to as the "Purple Palace" due to its purple seats, one of the Suns' colors. All-Star power forward Charles Barkley was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry. Barkley went on to win the MVP award that 1992–93 season.
In addition to Barkley, the Suns added key players to their roster, including Danny Ainge and draftees Arkansas center Oliver Miller and forward Richard Dumas (who was actually drafted in 1991 but was suspended for his rookie year for violating the NBA drug policy).
Under rookie head coach Paul Westphal, a former Suns assistant and player with the 1976 Suns in the NBA Finals, the Suns won 62 games in 1992–93, setting a franchise record. In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the eighth-seeded Lakers, coming back from a 0–2 deficit in the five-game series. The Suns then eliminated the Spurs and SuperSonics, advancing to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. They eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls, led by eventual Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The series also included a triple-overtime game in game three, making this and their previous game five in the 1976 series the only triple-overtime games in the history of the NBA Finals. Approximately 300,000 fans braved the 105° heat to celebrate the memorable season in the streets of Phoenix.
The Suns continued to be successful in the regular season, going 178–68 during the 1992–93, 1993–94, and 1994–95 seasons. They continued to bolster their roster by adding players such as A. C. Green, Danny Manning, Wesley Person, Wayman Tisdale, and Elliot Perry. Despite a Pacific Division title in 1995, the Suns were eliminated in consecutive Western Conference Semifinal rounds by the Houston Rockets, both series going a full seven games. Manning was rarely at full strength with the Suns, injuring his ACL in 1995 just before the All-Star break. In both years, the Suns led the series by two games at one point (2–0 in 1994, 3–1 in 1995) only to see the Rockets come back to win each series.
At the end of the 1994–95 season, Phoenix general manager Bryan Colangelo, the son of Jerry, initiated an eventually costly trade, sending the All-Star Majerle and a first round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for John "Hot Rod" Williams. Majerle was a fan favorite in Phoenix and in the Suns' locker room. The trade was made to address the Suns' need of a shot-blocking center but Majerle's presence was missed and Williams's production never met expectations.
The 1995–96 season was a disappointing year for the Suns, despite drafting NBA All-Rookie First Team member Michael Finley, who became unavailable for the playoffs due to injury. The Suns posted a 41–41 record and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. Westphal was fired midway through the season and replaced by Fitzsimmons, his third stint as head coach. A combination of front office unrest, along with the dwindling possibility of winning a championship, led to turmoil in Barkley's relationship with Jerry Colangelo, who both spurned each other publicly. This led to Barkley being traded to Houston for Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Mark Bryant, and Chucky Brown. Three of the four players were not with the franchise one year later, and two of the most talented players (Horry and Cassell) constantly clashed with the coach and seemed to be a negative influence in the locker room.
1996–2004: Average times
In the 1996 NBA draft, the Suns used their 15th pick for Santa Clara guard Steve Nash. Upon hearing the draft announcement, Suns fans booed in disapproval of the relatively unknown player, because he had not played in one of the major college conferences. During his first two seasons in the NBA, he played a supporting role behind star point guards Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson.
After the Barkley trade, the Suns began the 1996–97 season 0–13, a franchise record for the worst start. During the 13-game losing streak, Fitzsimmons stepped down as the coach and was replaced by former player Danny Ainge.
After an on-the-court altercation between Ainge and Horry, Horry was traded to the Lakers for former Sun and NBA all-star Cedric Ceballos. Cassell was later traded to Dallas for all-star guard Jason Kidd. With a mostly small lineup, the Suns put together an 11-game win streak that put them in the playoffs as the seventh seed, in a series that almost upset the favored Sonics. Despite the loss in the playoffs, the Suns became one of the few NBA teams to make the playoffs after starting the season 0–10 or worse, and one of the few to make the playoffs after experiencing a 10-plus-game losing streak during the regular season.
With Kidd starting at point guard, Nash was traded to the Mavericks in June 1998 in exchange for Martin Müürsepp, Bubba Wells, the draft rights to Pat Garrity, and a future first round draft pick (later used to select Shawn Marion).
In the off-season prior to the 2000 NBA season, the Suns traded for perennial All-Star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, creating the tandem of Kidd and Hardaway called "Backcourt 2000". However, the combination of Hardaway and Kidd was never fully realized as Hardaway missed several games during the middle of the 1999–2000 season and Kidd broke his ankle going into the playoffs just as Hardaway returned to the court. As the Suns entered the 2000 playoffs, they beat the higher-seeded San Antonio Spurs 3–1 in the best-of-five series. The Spurs were without their best player Tim Duncan throughout the whole series. However, even with the return of Kidd in the next round, the Suns fell to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in a 4–1 series.
The Suns continued to make the playoffs until the 2001–02 season when they fell short for the first time in 14 years. That season marked the trade of Jason Kidd, partly due to a publicized domestic violence episode, to the New Jersey Nets for Stephon Marbury. With the resultant high draft pick, the Suns were able to draft Amar'e Stoudemire.
The 2002–03 campaign saw the emergence of Stoudemire, a graduate of Cypress Creek High School (Orlando, Florida). He became the first high school-drafted player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year for the 2002–03 season, during which the Suns posted a record of 44–38 and returned to the playoffs. Marbury had a successful individual season, making the All-NBA Third Team and being selected for the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. The Suns were eliminated in the first round once again by the San Antonio Spurs; a six-game series with the eventual NBA champions.
In the 2003–04 season, the Suns finished out of the playoffs with a 29–53 record. The Suns made a blockbuster mid-season trade sending Marbury and Hardaway to the New York Knicks for Antonio McDyess and a future first round pick that was later dealt to Denver.
2004–2012: The Steve Nash era
2004–2006: Nash wins back-to-back MVPs
The beginning of 2004 saw the departure of the face of Suns management since the team's inception, when Jerry Colangelo announced that the Phoenix Suns were to be sold to an investment group headed by San Diego-based business executive and Tucson native Robert Sarver for $401 million. The 2004–05 season marked the Suns' return to the NBA's elite, finishing with the best record at 62–20, and tying a franchise record set by the 1992–93 team. They set a team record for greatest one-season improvement at 33 games. During the off-season, the Suns signed unrestricted free agent All-Star point guard Steve Nash from Dallas, who had formerly played for the Suns at the beginning of his career. Nash went on to win the MVP award that season. Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion were named All-Stars and first-year coach Mike D'Antoni was named NBA Coach of the Year.
In the 2005 NBA Playoffs, Phoenix was the first seed in the Western Conference. The Suns swept the Memphis Grizzlies, 4–0, and defeated the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the second round, 4–2, as Nash forced game six into overtime with a three-pointer in the closing seconds. In the Western Conference Finals, the Suns played the San Antonio Spurs, who won the series 4–1, ending Phoenix's season, partly due to Joe Johnson missing the first two games of the series. Johnson went on to start the remaining games where he averaged 40 minutes per game and 18.3 points per game. The Suns lost the first two at home, as well as the following game in San Antonio to fall behind 3–0 in the series, before winning game four at San Antonio 111–106. The team then lost game five at home 101–95 to be eliminated from the playoffs. Stoudemire averaged 37.0 points per game during the series against the Spurs, the highest ever by a player in their first Conference Finals.
The 2005–06 NBA season began with Stoudemire undergoing microfracture surgery in his knee on October 18, 2005, missing all but three games that season. Shooting guard Joe Johnson also demanded a sign-and-trade deal to the Atlanta Hawks, in which the Suns got Boris Diaw and two future first round picks. Other acquisitions included Raja Bell and Kurt Thomas. Despite the turnover in players, the Suns again won the Pacific Division, going 54–28 and capturing the second seed in the Western Conference. Nash was awarded a second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player Award, becoming the second point-guard, after Magic Johnson, to win the award in consecutive seasons. Also, Diaw was named NBA Most Improved Player.
The Suns began the 2006 Western Conference Playoffs as favorites against the Los Angeles Lakers. After winning the first game in Phoenix, they found themselves trailing in the series 3–1 after impressive performances[clarification needed] by Lakers' shooting guard Kobe Bryant. However, the Suns went on to win three straight games. With 7:33 left in the fifth game, Suns guard Raja Bell grabbed Bryant around the neck and threw him down as the Lakers' star drove to the basket. Bell earned a technical foul, his second of the game, and an automatic ejection. The Suns took game six in overtime, their first overtime win all season, despite 50 points from Bryant and Bell out serving a one-game suspension with last-second help from mid-season acquisition Tim Thomas. On their home court, the Suns won game seven 121–90, eliminating the Lakers for the first time since 1993. The Suns are 1 of 9 teams in NBA history to win a playoff series after being behind 3–1.
In the second round, the Suns faced the Los Angeles Clippers. The series was played closely, with both teams trading games on each other's courts. The series was 2–2 and the Suns were behind in game five before coming back and won in double overtime. After a game six loss, the Suns won the series in the seventh game on their home court at US Airways Center, winning by a margin of 20 with an NBA record fifteen 3-point FGs on May 22, 2006.
They went on to play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals as underdogs. The Suns took game one in Dallas by a single point and their May 30 victory in game four marked the most wins for the franchise in a Conference Finals series since the 1993 season. The Suns lost games five and six by a combined 25 points and were eliminated from the series on June 3.
2006–2008: "Seven seconds or less"
Under coach D'Antoni, the Suns popularized the fast break offense known as 7 seconds or less, which was later published in a book written by Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum. Though criticized for a supposed lack of defense, the Suns specialized an efficient offense designed to quickly get off shots that made regrouping on defense difficult for the opposing team.
The Suns entered the 2006–07 season aiming to win the first championship in franchise history. From November 20 to December 22, the Suns posted a 15-game win streak, followed almost immediately with a 17-game win streak from December 29 to January 28. On March 14, the 49–14 Suns met the 52–10 Dallas Mavericks in a match-up where both teams were fighting for the top seed in the Western conference and Nash was going for his third consecutive MVP award against Dirk Nowitzki. Though the Suns won the game in double overtime, the Mavericks would finish with the West's top seed at 67–15, and Nowitzki would narrowly win the MVP award ahead of Nash.
While the Mavericks were upset in the first round by the eight-seed Golden State Warriors, the 61–21 Suns defeated Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in five games in the opening round of the playoffs. This set up a rematch of the 2005 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. The series saw the Spurs defeat the Suns in six games, in what many called "the real finals" of the 2006–07 season. The Spurs went on to win the championship that year.
On June 6, former TNT TV analyst and NBA three-point specialist, Steve Kerr, was appointed Suns' general manager and president of basketball operations. Kerr was also a part of the Sarver-led investment group that purchased the franchise from Jerry Colangelo. His first off-season signing was former Orlando Magic small forward Grant Hill on a one-year $1.8 million deal with a player option for a second season at $2 million. Hill, who was previously considered injury-prone, played in the majority of games over the next four seasons as a starter.
The Suns finished 55–27 on the season, two games behind the Lakers who won the division. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Suns lost to the Spurs in five games, the first time they did not advance past the first round in the D'Antoni-Nash era. Some have attributed this to the mid-season acquisition of aging former MVP Shaquille O'Neal for four-time All Star Shawn Marion. Though O'Neal was brought in as a physical presence to match with the likes of the Spurs' Tim Duncan, the move all but ended their fast-paced offense which had brought them to the cusp of a Finals appearance.
2008–2010: Ups and downs
On June 9, 2008, Terry Porter was named head coach of the Phoenix Suns, succeeding Mike D'Antoni. Porter was an assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons when he was let go after the Pistons were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. During the off-season, the Suns had difficulties signing free agents because of being over the luxury tax. They made attempts to sign a backup point guard, Tyronn Lue; however, he decided to sign with the Bucks for more money. The Suns selected Robin Lopez (15th overall pick out of Stanford) in the 2008 NBA draft and acquired Goran Dragić, who was originally picked by the rival San Antonio Spurs.
On February 16, 2009, the Suns fired Porter and he was succeeded by Alvin Gentry. The Suns were expected to make the transition back to the up-tempo style basketball nicknamed the "7 Seconds or Less" or "Run and Gun" style. On February 18, Gentry began his head coaching tenure with a 140–100 blowout over the Clippers at home. Six Suns players scored in double digits, led by Leandro Barbosa's 24 points. The Suns led by as much as 50 points during the game and were without their swingman Jason Richardson who was serving a one-game suspension. However, this offense cost them their defense, allowing over 107 points per game, 27th in the league. The Suns scored 140 in the next two games. On February 20, Amar'e Stoudemire underwent eye surgery and was out for eight weeks. They went 18–13 under Gentry in the last 31 games. At the end of the season, the Suns missed the playoffs with a 46–36 record.
During the 2009–10 season, the Suns played a far more balanced style of basketball and finished with a 54–28 record. The Suns advanced to the NBA's Western Conference Finals, eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers in six games and the San Antonio Spurs in four games, including an explosive performance by Goran Dragić in game three against the Spurs, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter. The Suns faced the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals but lost in six games.
On June 15, 2010, Kerr resigned as general manager of the Suns and opted to return as an analyst for TNT effective June 30, 2010. In the wake of Kerr's decision to leave the club, senior vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told managing partner Robert Sarver he did not want to be a candidate to replace Kerr and left when his contract expired on June 30. The last moves of both Steve Kerr and David Griffin were drafting players Gani Lawal and Dwayne Collins with the second round draft picks that they had in the 2010 NBA draft.
2010–2012: Slow decline without Amar'e
The Suns re-signed Amar'e Stoudemire in the 2010 free agency period with a five-year contract for around $95 million, with $71 million guaranteed, and the rest of his salary coming only if certain conditions were held, such as getting guaranteed 4th and 5th-season money if he remained healthy enough to meet those conditions. However, during the summer of 2010, the Suns let Stoudemire go to the New York Knicks since they were guaranteeing him $100 million and hired player agent Lon Babby as president of basketball operations. The team then paid over $80 million to acquire Hedo Türkoğlu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick to not only replace Stoudemire but also add bench depth. On August 5, 2010, the Suns hired Lance Blanks as general manager. On December 19, 2010, the Suns acquired Vince Carter, Mickaël Piétrus, and Marcin Gortat from the Orlando Magic, along with a low draft pick and cash considerations. For this acquisition, the Suns traded Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, and the recently acquired Hedo Türkoğlu. On February 24, 2011, the Suns acquired point guard Aaron Brooks, trading first round (lottery-protected) draft pick and point guard Goran Dragić to the Houston Rockets. The Suns ended the 2010–11 season with a losing record and missed the playoffs.
In the 2011 NBA draft, the Suns used their 13th pick on Markieff Morris, a 6' 10" power forward from the Kansas Jayhawks. Markieff is the twin brother of Marcus Morris, who played together for three years in Kansas. In the 2012 NBA draft, the Suns used their 13th pick to select Kendall Marshall, a 6' 4" point guard from the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marshall was a prolific passer in his two seasons at North Carolina; setting the ACC and North Carolina season assist records, along with winning the Bob Cousy Award in his sophomore season with the Tar Heels.
2012–present: Decline and struggles
During the 2012 free agency period, the Suns traded Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for first round picks in 2013 and 2015, as well as second round picks in 2013 and 2014. After the trade, the Suns then re-acquired point guard Goran Dragić from Houston, signed Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley, and claimed Houston forward Luis Scola off amnesty waivers while also using the same amnesty clause (as codified in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement) to waive Josh Childress. They also did a three-way trade with the New Orleans Hornets and the Timberwolves by trading Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the Hornets and a 2014 second rounder to the Timberwolves in exchange for Wesley Johnson, a top 14-protected future first rounder and the rights to Brad Miller and Jerome Dyson. The latter two players' rights were later waived and the Suns then signed Jermaine O'Neal for one year. The Suns also signed P. J. Tucker based on his performance with the Suns' Summer League team. On September 20, it was announced that Channing Frye had dilated cardiomyopathy and as a result, he missed the entire 2012–13 season, although he sometimes made special appearances to do the pre-game show for local Suns games with Tom Leander and Tom Chambers. On January 12, 2013, the Suns became the fourth-fastest NBA team to win 2,000 games with a 97–81 road victory against the Chicago Bulls, which also marked the last victory for Alvin Gentry as head coach for the Suns. On January 18, 2013, the day after a loss that broke a 24-home-game winning streak against the Milwaukee Bucks, Gentry agreed to leave the Phoenix Suns organization. Two days later, player development coach Lindsey Hunter was named interim head coach role for the remainder of the season. A few days later, assistant head coaches Dan Majerle and Elston Turner had also resigned from their positions. On February 21, 2013, the Suns had traded their 2013 second round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Marcus Morris, the twin brother of power forward Markieff Morris. A day later, the Suns traded point guard Sebastian Telfair to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Iranian center Hamed Haddadi and a 2014 second round pick. The Suns ended their first post-Steve Nash season with a 25–57 win-loss record, their second-worst record in franchise history behind only their inaugural season.
2013–2018: Ryan McDonough's tenure
On April 22, 2013, it was announced that the Suns had fired general manager Lance Blanks. On May 7, 2013, former Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough was announced as the new general manager of the Suns. On May 26, 2013, the Suns hired Jeff Hornacek as their head coach to replace interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. The team also started the new season with new modified logos, replacing most of the purple on their logos with black, although purple would still be found on their jerseys.
In the 2013 NBA draft on June 27, the Suns selected Ukrainian center Alex Len from Maryland with their 5th pick and power forward Alex Oriakhi from Missouri with their 57th pick. Although the Suns were expected to have a poor season, they began the season with a 19–11 record. Eric Bledsoe then went down against the Los Angeles Clippers with a torn meniscus and missed the following 33 games. The Suns went 17–16 during his absence led by Goran Dragić, keeping Phoenix in the playoff race with the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks. At 47–32 while Dallas and Memphis were both 48–32, Phoenix lost against both teams before they defeated the Sacramento Kings to finish the season 48–34. Dallas finished 49–33 and Memphis finished 50–32, resulting in Memphis finishing with the seventh seed, Dallas with the eighth, and Phoenix out of the playoffs.
During the 2014 NBA draft, the Suns drafted sophomore forward T. J. Warren from NC State, Canadian freshman point guard Tyler Ennis from Syracuse, Serbian shooting guard Bodgan Bogdanović, and senior center-power forward Alec Brown from Wisconsin-Green Bay. After trying to obtain players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, and losing Channing Frye to the Orlando Magic, the Suns decided to sign-and-trade for Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas under a four-year contract worth $27 million in exchange for Alex Oriakhi, using a $7 million traded-player exception. On September 24, 2014, the Suns and Eric Bledsoe agreed on a five-year contract worth $70 million. A couple of days after, on September 29, 2014, they extended both Markieff and Marcus Morris to four-year deals that combine to $52 million, with Markieff earning $32 million and Marcus getting the remaining $20 million. Right before the trade deadline on February 19, 2015, the Suns made moves to change the roster. After demanding a trade due to lingering frustrations with the front office and direction of the team, Goran Dragić and his brother Zoran were traded by the Suns to the Miami Heat for Danny Granger and Miami's 2017 and 2021 first round picks in a three-team trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Immediately after the trade, the Suns replaced Dragić by trading for Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight, sending Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee and the Lakers' 2015 first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. Isaiah Thomas was then traded to the Boston Celtics for Marcus Thornton and the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 first round pick.
2015–present: Devin Booker era
In the 2015 NBA draft, the Suns drafted Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker with the 13th pick. He was the youngest player drafted at the time by the Suns at 18-years-old and debuted two days before his 19th birthday against the Dallas Mavericks. On July 1, 2015, the Suns retained the rights of Brandon Knight under an offer similar to that of Eric Bledsoe's, and signed Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler to a four-year deal worth $52 million. A day later, the Suns traded Markieff's brother Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Danny Granger to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for their 2020 second round selection. However, star player Eric Bledsoe sustained a season-ending injury on December 26, 2015.
On February 1, 2016, the Suns relieved Jeff Hornacek of his duties as head coach. Former NBA player Earl Watson took on interim head coaching duties. The Suns traded the disgruntled Markieff Morris on February 19, 2016, to the Washington Wizards for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and the Wizards' first round pick in the 2016 NBA draft. On March 14, 2016, the Suns were eliminated from playoff contention for a sixth straight season making it the longest drought in franchise history surpassing the five straight misses from the 1970–71 NBA season to the 1974–75 NBA season. However, rookie Devin Booker went from being a sixth-man off the bench player for Kentucky to future impact player after the injuries to Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. He earned the team's first NBA All-Rookie Team honors since Amar'e Stoudemire back in 2003. Earl Watson officially became the full-time head coach on April 19, 2016, with his new assistant coaches Jay Triano, former Suns player Tyrone Corbin, Marlon Garnett, and Scott Duncan replacing most of the assistant coaches from the previous season. During the 2016 NBA draft, the Suns drafted the 18-year-old Bosnian-born Croatian forward-center Dragan Bender, Washington power forward Marquese Chriss, and Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis; Chriss was acquired by trading the Suns' 13th and 28th selections, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and the Pistons' 2020 second round pick to the Sacramento Kings. During the 2016 free agency period, the Suns regained former players and fan-favorites Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa under new deals.
While the Suns ended the 2016–17 season with only a slight improvement from their previous record despite the return of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker continued to improve in his second season with the team, leading the team in points scored at 22.1 per game. Marquese Chriss was also named to the All-Rookie Second Team that season. In the 2017 NBA draft, the Suns dropped to the 4th pick in the draft and selected Josh Jackson from the University of Kansas. On October 22, 2017, head coach Earl Watson was fired after a 0–3 start that included two losses of 40+ point deficits, which led to Jay Triano being promoted to interim head coach. On November 7, Bledsoe was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe and a protected first and second round draft pick. The Suns ended the season with the second-worst record in franchise history at 21–61. After the season concluded, the Suns let go of interim head coach Triano and hired Igor Kokoškov as the team's new head coach. The Suns earned their first no. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft lottery after ending the season with the league-worst record that year. With the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Phoenix selected Deandre Ayton. They would also trade up into the top 10 that year to take Mikal Bridges with the 10th pick from the Philadelphia 76ers, a draft pick the Suns already had from the Steve Nash trade before trading the pick to the 76ers in the Brandon Knight trade. In the offseason, Devin Booker signed a 5-year $158 million contract extension with the Suns.
2019: Monty Williams joins
Before the start of the regular season and during preseason on October 8, 2018, owner Robert Sarver decided to relieve Ryan McDonough from general manager position, and named vice president of basketball operations James Jones and assistant general manager Trevor Bukstei] the interim general managers. A highlight of the season was when a planned three-way trade with the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies fell apart through miscommunication of the players involved and being sent in the planned deal.
The Suns would once again have another losing season as they missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season. At the end of the season, the Suns made James Jones the team's permanent general manager, with co-interim general manager Trevor Bukstein returning to his prior assistant general manager role. When the season came to an end, the coaching staff, including head coach Igor Kokoškov, were fired on April 23, 2019. Former New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans head coach and Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams was hired as the team's new head coach on May 3, and completed the rest of the new coaching staff on June 26. Phoenix finished with a 19–63 record, the worst in the Western Conference. Ayton made the All-Rookie First Team. The Suns had the third odds in the lottery but landed the sixth pick.
During the day of the 2019 NBA draft, the Suns agreed to deal T. J. Warren to the Indiana Pacers and their second-round pick (which would become KZ Okpala) to the Miami Heat for cash considerations. During the draft, they agreed to swap their sixth pick (which would become Jarrett Culver), trading down for the Minnesota Timberwolves' 11th pick (which would become Cameron Johnson) and Dario Šarić, and also agreeing to deal the Milwaukee Bucks' future first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Aron Baynes and the draft rights to point guard Ty Jerome, as well as agree to a deal with undrafted Jalen Lecque. In the off-season they signed veteran point guard Ricky Rubio to a three-year deal, and re-signed Oubre to a two-year deal, signed Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo.
The Suns played the Kings in their season opener on October 23, 2019, and won 124–95. On October 24, Ayton was suspended 25 games for failing a drug test. However, the Suns continued to play well, going 11–12 over their next 23 games.
On February 13, 2020, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Devin Booker had been named as a reserve in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, marking the first time since Steve Nash in 2012 that a Phoenix Suns player had been selected to the game. This later selection came as a result of an injury to Portland's Damian Lillard, who was unable to participate.
List of the last five seasons completed by the Suns. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Phoenix Suns seasons.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Winning Percentage;
The Suns played at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum from 1968 until 1992. In 1992, they moved to Talking Stick Resort Arena, referred to as "The Purple Palace". Plans were made to renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena, however disagreements on payments for these upgrades between the Suns and Phoenix City Council have delayed the process.
1968–1973: Original uniforms
After the NBA had awarded a franchise to the Phoenix metropolitan area in 1968, local designers chose purple and orange as the main colors for the Phoenix Suns' uniforms. The original uniforms featured a futuristic "Phoenix" wordmark in front plus block numbers and letters in orange with purple and white trim. An orange sunburst logo was added on the sides of the shorts.
1973–1992: Western look
The Suns tweaked their uniforms for the 1973–74 season. Other than the basic template itself, only the lettering and numbers were changed from the original uniforms. The "Phoenix" wordmark and numbers were modified to a Western-style font, with a few changes to the treatment of the player's name at the back.
1992–2000: Streaking Sun look
In time for the move to the America West Arena for the 1992–93 season, the Suns overhauled their look. The home white and road purple uniforms now feature the "Streaking Sun" logo in the chest with "Suns" on top and the number at the bottom. The shorts feature the word "Phoenix" in orange letters written diagonally on the left leg. Prior to the 1994–95 season, the Suns introduced a black alternate uniform featuring the same template.
2000–2013: Seven Seconds or Less look
Before the 2000–01 season the Suns changed to a more simplistic uniform style. The home white uniform has the word "Suns" and the numbers in purple with orange trim along with purple side stripes. The road purple uniform has the word "Phoenix" and the numbers in white with orange trim along with grey side stripes. An orange alternate uniform, with the abbreviation "PHX" and the numbers in white with purple trim along with grey side stripes, arrived prior to the 2003–04 season. All three uniforms featured the updated "Streaking Sun" alternate logo on the stripes while the player's numbers was seen on the left leg until the 2005–06 season.
2013–2017: Updated Streaking Sun look
The Suns overhauled their uniforms anew prior to the 2013–14 season. The look was inspired from their previous uniform designs. The home white uniforms featured "Suns" in orange with black trim along with black numbers, orange streaks and grey and orange sunbursts. The purple road uniforms featured "Phoenix" in white with orange trim along with orange numbers, white streaks and black, grey and orange sunbursts. The orange alternate uniforms (sleeved from 2013 to 2015; sleeveless from 2015 to 2017) featured "Suns" in white with black trim along with black numbers, white streaks and black and dark orange sunbursts.
During the 2014–15 season, the Suns added a grey sleeved alternate uniform. The uniform has "Phoenix" and the numbers in black with orange trim. The "Phoenix" wordmark was a callback to the "Western" look of the 1970s and 1980s. A black alternate uniform was also added prior to the 2015–16 season. The black uniforms featured "PHX" in black with white trim along with white numbers and purple and orange trim.
2017–present: Switch to Nike
When the NBA switched to Nike beginning with the 2017–18 season, the Suns drastically revamped their uniforms. Gone was the modernized "Streaking Sun" and the sunburst of the previous uniforms, and the Suns returned to a more simplified design. Purple also returned as a prominent color. The home-and-away designations were eliminated and in its place were the white "Association" uniform, the primary color "Icon" uniform, the secondary color "Statement" uniform and the annual "City" uniform.
The Suns' "Association" uniforms featured "Suns" in orange and the numbers in purple. The purple "Icon" uniforms featured "Phoenix" in grey and the numbers in orange. The black "Statement" uniform featured "PHX" in grey and the numbers in orange. All three uniforms have the "Streaking Sun" logo on the beltline.
Starting with the 2019–20 season, the Suns replaced the black uniform with a new orange uniform, featuring the "Streaking Sun" logo in front, the numbers in white, and the "PHX" abbreviation on the beltline.
Los Suns special uniforms
The Suns started wearing special "Noche Latina" uniforms in 2007 to commemorate the Latin American fanbase. The 2007 edition used the home white uniform template with the flag of Latin American countries substituting for the orange stripes. Starting in 2008, the Suns began to wear a modified version of their orange alternate uniforms with "Los Suns" in front, which they kept until 2013.
During the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Suns wore their "Los Suns" uniforms on Cinco de Mayo for Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. Sports reporter Dave Zirin called the "Los Suns" action an "unprecedented political statement by a sports team." The move was also widely reported to be a protest of an Arizona illegal-immigration law enacted in April.
After the 2013 rebrand the Suns wore a black sleeved uniform with "Los Suns" in white with orange trim along with Latin-inspired accents at the back. This lasted only one season, however, as the Suns introduced a modified version of their purple uniforms in 2015, albeit with "Los Suns" in place of "Phoenix". This version lasted until 2017.
For 2018, Nike added a fourth uniform option, the "City" uniform. The Suns used the occasion to unveil a new version of the "Los Suns" uniform, albeit using only purple, grey and white. Unlike in previous years where the "Los Suns" uniform was worn only during the month of March, this uniform was first used during the month of January. For 2019, the "Los Suns" uniform added orange trim on the letters and stylized black piping while moving the front numbers to the left chest. It also featured a recolored Arizona flag in Suns colors on the shorts and "SOMOS PHX" slogan above the uniform tag. The 2020 version kept the same template albeit with black as the base color and purple as the trim color.
Other City uniforms
For the 2020–21 season, the Suns' "City" uniform eschewed the "Los Suns" theme of previous seasons and went with a tribute to the Phoenix region. The uniforms featured a black base and a pixelated mountain-shaped rainbow of yellow, orange, red and purple. The front of the uniform read "The Valley" in custom script lettering along the rainbow mountains.
The Suns Gorilla
For the first eleven seasons of their existence in the NBA, the Suns had no official mascot, but some years later this mascot was born by accident. A messenger for Eastern Onion, a singing telegram service, came to the Coliseum during a home game dressed as a gorilla. As he left, Coliseum security suggested he do a few dances underneath the basket during a timeout and the fans loved it. So did the messenger, Henry Rojas, who kept coming to games until he was officially invited to be part of the team. An earlier attempt at a mascot was made involving a sunflower costume, but it never caught on. The Suns Gorilla then became one of the most famous mascots in the NBA.
Nicknamed "Go", fans are familiar with the Gorilla for his on the court antics where he raises the Phoenix Suns flag, performs slam dunk routines and fires up the crowd. Go has fictional background story consisting of coming from the Banana Republic and earning an education at Fur-man University. Before his debut with the Phoenix Suns, the Gorilla delivered singing telegrams until he stepped onto the Suns' court during a game. His antics became a hit and the Gorilla has since been a member of the Phoenix Sun. The Gorilla has been known for slapstick humor during games, such as running the stadium stairs to the Rocky theme, and the dunks that are performed before each fourth quarter.
Rojas retired as the Gorilla after the 1987–88 season and has since been involved in numerous charity projects. Bob Woolf took over the role and he helped introduce some of the Go's biggest staples Go. Woolf performed as the Gorilla from the 1988–89 NBA season until the 2005–06 season. Devin Nelson then performed as Go from the 2006–07 NBA season until the end of the 2011–12 season. Bob Woolf then resumed his role as Go once Devin Nelson left. It was during Devin Booker 2x all-star selection that an unpaid intern "Satch" couldn't wait to apply to be the mascot. He understands that the role of the Gorilla is important to the suns. He will bring excitement to the crowd just like Devin does on the court.
He was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2005 and still makes appearances with charities, schools, hospitals and local businesses.
Phoenix Suns roster
Retained draft rights
The Suns hold the draft rights to the following unsigned draft picks who have been playing outside the NBA. A drafted player, either an international draftee or a college draftee who is not signed by the team that drafted him, is allowed to sign with any non-NBA teams. In this case, the team retains the player's draft rights in the NBA until one year after the player's contract with the non-NBA team ends. This list includes draft rights that were acquired from trades with other teams.
Ring of Honor and retired numbers
- * Retired number
- 1 Also served as interim head coach in 1987.
- 2 Also served as assistant head coach (2008–2013).
- 3 Number was temporarily unretired for Grant Hill (2008–2012).
- 4 Was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
- 5 Also served as assistant head coach (1988–1992) and head coach (1992–1996).
Phoenix Suns' All-Century Team
The Suns' All-Century Team was voted on by the fans:
40th Anniversary Team
The 40th Anniversary Suns Team, selected by fans through an Internet vote, was unveiled on January 3, 2008. The same night the Suns defeated the Seattle SuperSonics, 104–96, to celebrate the team's 40th season. The Suns' inaugural game in 1968 was against the Sonics.
Basketball Hall of Famers
- 1 In total, Barkley was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice – as player and as a member of the 1992 Olympic team.
- 2 Inducted posthumously.
- 3 He also served as assistant head coach in 1988–1992, and head coach in 1992–1996.
- 4 He also coached the team in 1970 and 1972–1973, and was the owner of the team in 1987–2004.
FIBA Hall of Famers
The annual NBA outdoors game
The Suns held an annual basketball exhibition game, the NBA Outdoors, every first weekend of October in Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California near the city of Palm Springs from 2008 to 2010. However, the club ceased playing the outdoor preseason game prior to the 2011–12 NBA preseason.
As a result of a recommendation by the Coachella Valley Recreation and Park District's Superintendent of Operations, Craig DeWitt, the NBA held its first outdoor exhibition basketball game on October 11, 2008. That stadium facility was built primarily for tennis tournaments and music concerts, and it can hold up to 15,000 fans. The Phoenix Suns lost the game to the Denver Nuggets. A second annual outdoor exhibition game was played on October 10, 2009, this time the Suns lost to the Golden State Warriors. On October 9, 2010, the Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks in the third annual outdoor exhibition.
In 2008 and 2009 pre-seasons, the Suns held training camp in the Auditorium in La Quinta, California and the College of the Desert Gymnasium in Palm Desert, California alongside the Portland Trail Blazers. But in 2010, the Suns began their training in San Diego and the Trail Blazers in Tucson, Arizona as well held exhibition games in Seattle, Washington.
In October 2008, the Phoenix Suns organization, along with partnered advertising agencies, were honored with 12 Emmy awards by the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The Suns won an award in the Advanced Media category for a video on Suns.com during the 2007 NBA Playoffs, Raja Bell Reunion with Teammates, produced by Steven J. Koek. An Emmy was also awarded in 2008 for PlanetOrange.net, the team's official online fan community. The site was produced by Suns VP of Interactive Services Jeramie McPeek and powered by technology from social media application developer KickApps. McPeek was also awarded for the writing and producing of the virtual locker room site, SunsLockerRoom.com along with Daniel Banks. The Phoenix Suns also created a Twitter Central for their fans called Suns Twackle.
- Phoenix Gazette, January 22, 1968.
- The Arizona Republic, January 23, 1968.
- "Suns continue ties to Tucson", Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star, April 17, 2004.