My allegiance to the Orlando Magic runs deep.
Have there been highs? Sure. An NBA Finals berth in 2009, Tracy McGrady’s unexpected superstar ascent, even the Dwight Howard years I look back at rather fondly. But the lows are where true devotion is tested, and after over 30 years of catastrophes and strife, nothing will ever rattle me to the core of my being (as a fan, at least) than the time I got chased around my house with a broom after Orlando got swept in the 1995 NBA Finals.
If you’re a Phoenix Suns fan, however—a team I also developed an affinity for while living in Arizona for 14 years of my adult life—there’ve been a few more highs over the course of franchise history (Charles Barkley’s reign, the Steve Nash era, etc.). But in recent years, almost every season has felt like a sweep due to a myriad of problems that could all be traced to their meddling owner, Robert Sarver, more commonly known as one of the worst owners in professional sports.
Before this year, the Suns hadn’t made the postseason since Amar’e Stoudemire was still a thing. That’s 2010 to be exact, and their 10-season playoff drought was tied for the fifth-longest in the history of the league. During that humiliating period, Devin Booker, who was enlisted into this mess via the 2015 NBA Draft, heard it all.
Despite his penchant for explosive plays and gaudy numbers, every barbershop branded him a loser who couldn’t play winning basketball. Sports analysts far and wide hopped on TV to dismiss his contributions on the court as merely stat padding. There was also that Robert Sarver guy who alienated fans by threatening to move the team if they didn’t relent to his demands, which in turn led to piss-poor attendance and outrage throughout the city of Phoenix.
The team was a hot fucking mess and seemed destined to remain that way indefinitely until April 11, 2019, when James Jones, then the Suns’ vice president of basketball operations, was finally handed the keys to the franchise and officially became general manager.
In the short period of time since, Jones snatched up coach Monty Williams from the lost and found, the team went undefeated in last summer’s NBA Bubble, the Suns reeled in a “washed up” Chris Paul, and a year later are a prime candidate to win their first-ever NBA championship.
Thanks, in part, to the same guy everyone was shitting on not too long ago: Devin Booker.
The team has also received plenty of assistance from CP3, who at 36 years old, has unleashed a second (or third) gear that most of us didn’t even know he had. Since when was Paul dropping 34 points in close-out games? Let alone ever?
What in the hell?
Paul is another player whose postseason rep was in dire need of rehabilitation prior to this year. Thankfully, having weapons like Cameron Payne, Deandre Ayton, Mikhal Bridges, and Booker at his disposal have helped him not only stumble upon the fountain of youth, but complete his first-ever sweep in a playoff series, crushing the Nuggets 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals. (Oh, and the Lakers got that work, too.)
“We were hyped, man,” Booker said after the game. “Chris was saying before the game he’d never swept somebody, he had never beat somebody 4-0. I don’t know when the last time the Suns have been to the Western Conference finals, but tonight is one of the nights we celebrate in-house and then wake up tomorrow, we’re on to either the Clippers or Utah.”
Paul made it a point to address his detractors on Sunday too after doing what many believed was impossible.
“I’m so grateful to my family, my team,” he said. “A couple of years ago they were writing me off. ‘You can’t do this.’ This ain’t about me, it’s about us. To show you what you can do when you come together as a team.”
If the Brooklyn Nets continue to fall apart (Kyrie Irving left Game 4 on Sunday with a nasty ankle injury) and the Suns can remain healthy, they’re the favorites to win it all. And whether Sarver deserves such an amazing accomplishment or not, Phoenix Suns fans do—and that’s all that matters.