201 E Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
June 14, 2021
Dear Suns Organization,
I am writing this letter to anyone, and everyone, involved in the Phoenix Suns organization within the National Basketball Association. Thank you for the time and effort you have invested into finally creating a successful team. Before going 51-21 this season, you hadn’t cracked 42 wins in a season since 2013-2014. You hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010. That’s not good. Your history has been one of mediocre success. You were a perennial playoff team with stars like Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash. You had a good stretch in the late 70s and early 80s. You’ve been to two NBA finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1976 and the Chicago Bulls in 1993. You also may have been a hip-check away from the finals in 2007. We shall never know. You have had one other crucial aspect to your existence since the early 90s: the undying love of my brother, Tyler.
My brother and I grew up in Gainesville, Florida. (With the rest of our family too, we were not street smart scamps). Our father was born and raised in Vermont and I inherited his fandom of the Boston area teams. Since the year 2000, that’s been a pretty smart deal. My brother chose his sporting interests based on players that he really liked. He became surgically attached to those teams, even after those players retired. My understanding is that Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley were the reason he landed on Phoenix, a city he has never been to and I’m pretty sure would not be able to point to on a map. OK, he could probably point to it because he can read and as a major metropolitan area it is probably labeled on said map, but my point is he has no connection to the place.
For context, he also roots for the Seattle Mariners, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New York Rangers. I do not think the fact that that happens to cover the four corners of the country was intentional. If you know much about the overall sports teams of the last 30 years, those are not what most would call “successful” franchises. But my brother sticks by all of them year after year. You perhaps most of all, Suns.
And for that reason, I want to thank you for pulling this team together and for accomplishing some amazing things.
Thank you for signing Chris Paul. As my colleague, Simon, so aptly put it yesterday, Paul is the Meryl Streep of the NBA: great in everything and lifts those around him no matter what film or team they are on. This team was turning things around without Paul––the bubble was evidence of that––but he has been the steadying force, the talent infusion, and the mental toughness they needed to take the next steps.
Thank you for drafting Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, and the draft day HEIST of Mikal Bridges. Tough love alert: you kinda have sucked at roster construction for the last ten years. You drafted and then moved on from players like Bogdan Bogdanović, TJ Warren, and Markieff Morris. You drafted mistakes like Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Josh Jackson in the first place. Hell, even with Ayton, you missed on potential MVP candidate Luka Doncic. (He could certainly play next to Devin Booker, in my opinion).
Still, you’ve turned it around. You brought in Dario Saric for basically nothing and he gives you solid minutes. In that same deal, you swapped the pick of Jarrett Culver for Cam Johnson, another important bench piece. You revitalized Cam Payne from a descent into obscurity. You brought in Jae Crowder to provide another proven player who clearly adds something to the mix. Just ask Miami. Last, but not least, my favorite deal, you literally just paid straight cash to take Torrey Craig from Milwaukee and he has hit some surprisingly important shots with good defense.
Just to circle back to that Bridges steal. He is exactly the type of modern NBA player that teams need and you STOLE him for a guy who is out of the league (Zhaire Smith). The Luka bit does hurt as a backcourt of Luka, Booker, and Bridges is nasty. I’m not sure you get Chris Paul, so maybe it worked out in the end? Paul’s performance in the closeout game last night is exactly the reason you go get him and you do not care how much you’re paying him. He shows up for the big moments and he’s molded this relatively young team into a group that plays like a seasoned veteran bunch.
Thank you for your statistical excellence. Like leading the playoffs in Opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage. That’s a nerdy term for “you are making teams shoot the worst when the value of shots is accounted for.” Additionally, you have the highest remaining Opponent Turnover Percentage in the playoffs. You all are crushing it defensively, basically. Your defense has been excellent when you turn the ball over, too. You lead the playoffs in that category, Opponent Points Off Turnovers. I love the way you share the ball on offense. Players are always looking for the extra pass. You lead the playoffs in Percentage of Field Goals Assisted.
Your path to the championship feels more real with every win. After sweeping the Nuggets, you’re just one series away. Backup big men might be your weakness, but really only the Bucks might present potential problems with their size.
My brother could not be happier. Tyler has had an air of giddiness throughout this whole run.
He bought a “Rally the Valley” T-shirt. At the beginning of the season, he bought a couple of other shirts and a hat. He will pull on one of those shirts any time he watches any of your games. He catches as many as he can before he has to go to bed at a reasonable time on the east coast. He loves to catch up about the game the next day and he is always, always an optimist. When we were talking before the Lakers series, he never let my constant reminders about the Lakers size advantage get him down. He always believes the best in you, Phoenix.
He always believes the best in everyone, really, but you certainly count. He was so upset when you failed to make the playoffs after going 8-0 in the bubble last year that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the rest of the playoffs. He felt like you deserved to be there and he stuck by that conviction.
My brother is on the spectrum and I know that plays a role in all of this, but that is not the point. He has faced barrier after barrier in many areas of his life. Following sports is his main outlet. I mentioned him going to sleep at a reasonable time and he does so because he often works 12-hour days at two different jobs doing the most thankless of tasks. I don’t mean that they are insignificant, I literally mean no one thanks him.
That is why, Phoenix Suns, I am showing my gratitude so profusely. Sure, your players have earned this success, but I like to think Tyler has too. After the years of playoff disappointments––if they made it at all––and the shaky front office decisions (remember the Rondo pick?) things are finally starting to look up again. Tyler works outside in the snow or the storms, the 10-degree days or the 95-degree ones, and you have made his steps lighter knowing that his team, his guys, vanquished LeBron James. He has never complained about the obstacles he’s overcome. Instead, he looks forward to your conquests every other night, with one day off for travel.
It is so important to find the little joys in life. Tyler is excellent at finding ways to prove that. I wasn’t kidding about that optimism. “There’s always the next game,” has basically been a mantra for him. He inspires me in that way. This Suns season has been a validation of his beliefs. There is no greater gift than that, right?
In a couple of weeks, if the Suns are playing the Nets in the NBA finals, Tyler may just explode. His favorite team playing against a team coached by his former favorite player? (Don’t worry, Suns, he’ll still be rooting for you.)
So, my sincerest gratitude to all involved. I appreciate you taking the time to read this in addition to taking the time to put the Nuggets out of their misery. You’ve plastered yet another smile on my brother’s face, and that is truly priceless.