RJP: Phoenix Suns
Seven Jerseys or Less!
The Retired Jersey Project is chugging along! (Read this if you need to catch up on the rules.)
First of all, these jerseys kinda suck, but OH MY GOD this image is awesome!
Alright, so the Suns have done a pretty admirable job of retiring jerseys. Founded in the late 1960s, the franchise has never won an NBA title. However, they’ve usually been either a title contender or at least a solid playoff team at worst. The 2010s were a wretched aberration.
Looking at the retired numbers, you get a pretty good sense for the players who made that sucess happen for the Suns.
#5 Dick Van Arsdale
#6 Walter Davis
#7 Kevin Johnson
#9 Dan Majerle
#13 Steve Nash
#24 Tom Chambers (this is the turd in the punch bowl. Kevin Johnson is a terrible person, but you can’t deny his basketball chops. Chambers wasn’t bad. In fact, he was really good! But, in my opinion, didn’t do enough for long enough in Phoenix to get this honor.)
#33 Alvan Adams
#34 Charles Barkley
#42 Connie Hawkins
#44 Paul Westhead
Before getting to my two suggestions, I do want to express my sympathies for Larry Nance. I wouldn’t retire his number, but he has a better case than ole Tom Chambers. He was a better player in Phoenix than Chambers, but he won’t have his number retired because the team had a mini-lull during much of Nance’s time in the 1980s. They did reach the Western Conference Finals in 1984, but they also had the stupendous drug bust of 1987. Nance wasn’t involved, but it kind of summed up the era. He played really well, but the team was sort of listless because his teammates underwhelmed or disappointed or got a caught with drugs.
Anyways, here’s a comparison of Nance and Chambers as Suns and you tell me which of the two you’d run with…
Only thing Chambers had over Nance was teammates in their prime.
Sorry, that got unexpectedly personal with Chambers.
Jerseys to Retire
#31 Shawn Marion (1999-2008)
2x All-NBA 3rd Team—4x All-Star
Shawn Marion is the most underrated star player of the 2000s.
Not sure if that’s controversial, but that’s right, I said it.
He was the defender who made Seven Seconds or Less possible because he could lock down players up and down the opposing roster. But Marion wasn’t merely a product of Seven Seconds or Less. During his four seasons before Steve Nash showed up in Phoenix, Marion averaged 19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .459 FG%, .360 3P%, and .839 FT%. And he was an All-Star in 2003.
Despite being one of the best defenders in NBA history, the versatile Marion never made an All-Defensive Team in his entire career.
THE BIGGEST LOAD OF BULLSHIT IN THE 21st CENTURY.
THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID IT AGAIN.
Marion’s also the most underrated star in Phoenix history. He’s the Suns’ all-time leader in win shares, he’s second in franchise history in minutes played, second in rebounds, second in steals, and third in blocks (just three behind Mark West for second place).
And when Phoenix decided to try and retool their roster it was Marion who was unceremoniously cast aside to acquire Shaquille O’Neal in 2008. Dumb move, but at least Marion got his by greatly contributing to a title winner in Dallas in 2011.
Something he could have done in Phoenix if not for some bad breaks and untimely suspensions.
Anyhoo, all hail the Matrix!
#1 Amar’e Stoudemire (2002-2010)
All-NBA 1st Team—3x All-NBA 2nd Team—5x All-Star
If Marion was underrated, I think Amar’e Stoudemire was a bit overrated. But only a bit. He didn’t merit four combined All-NBA 1st/2nd Team appearances, but he was an offensive weapon of terrifying proportions, so I can see how he got the accolades.
Like his longtime teammate Marion, Stoudemire had some bona fides before Steve Nash showed up, but he was certainly juiced up by Nash’s passing and pick-n-roll action.
In 2004, STAT averaged 20.6 PPG on .475 FG% with Stephon Marbury at point.
In 2005, STAT averaged 26.0 PPG on .559 FG% with Nash at point.
It’s also true, though, that having Amar’e as a teammate made Nash better.
His defense was bleh, but the only thing that truly held Amar’e back were his knee injuries. Be glad “microfracture knee surgery” is a phrase not in the basketball lexicon anymore.
(Secretly replaces Tom Chambers’s #24 with Larry Nance’s #22)
I'm new here, but very excited to explore your tour of NBA history. And impressed with what I've seen thus far.
But I gotta take issue with your Tom Chambers takedown. He was more important to the franchise than you give him credit. When the Suns signed him in 1988, they were coming out of the drug scandal that almost destroyed the organization and came close to forcing them to move to another city. They'd fired their most successful coach, John MacLeod. The Suns had traded the face of their franchise, Larry Nance, to get Mark West, Kevin Johnson and Ty Corbin. Fan support and faith in the organization was in the toilet, and they were teetering on the edge of irrelevance. We all know what KJ turned out to be, but at the time, none of those guys was a certified star or proven fan-draw.
The Suns had a hugely productive off-season, hiring Cotton Fitzsimmons a second time as their head coach, and drafting Dan Majerle, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, all of whom made the rotation, along with holdovers KJ, the perpetually-underrated Eddie Johnson and Jeff Hornacek. But they were still missing the go-to scorer in the front court , someone who could pair with KJ to score outside or in and strike fear in the defense.
Enter Tom Chambers, the NBA's first unrestricted free agent. The Suns signed him minutes after free agency opened. He was exactly what the team needed and, as KJ and Majerle matured, he became the linchpin and face of the team, priority number 1 for opposing defenses and, along with KJ, the most important reason the Suns improved by 25 games over the prior year. Fans came back in droves.
His first two years with the team were extraordinary, and his production only declined after that due to age and the emergence of Hornacek, Ceballos and Majerle as dependable scoring options. There was a time when Chambers/KJ rivaled Stockton/Malone in greatest-pick-and-roll-duo debates... and a lot of people preferred the Suns' combo, as Stockton and Malone hadn't quite matured yet.
When Charles Barkley showed up in 1992, the team's entire focus, philosophy and offense changed, and Tommy Gun's day was effectively over. But he'd done everything he'd been acquired to do, and probably more.
"Turd in the punch bowl?" Shame on you - Tom Chambers was either reason 1A or 1B the Suns stayed in Phoenix and made the franchise an attractive destination for Barkley, leading to their considerable success in the 90s. That makes him worthy of a spot in the Ring of Honor, for sure.
That sounded more harsh on marion than meant to be. I agree fully marion was better player. Just harder to remember moments