The Suns were one of two franchises to join the NBA at the start of the 1968–69 season, alongside the Milwaukee Bucks, the American professional basketball franchise from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were the first major professional sports franchise in the Phoenix market and in the entire state of Arizona, and would be the only one for 20 years until the Cardinals of the National Football League relocated from St. Louis in 1988. The team played its first 24 seasons at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, located northwest of downtown Phoenix. The franchise was formed by an ownership group led by Karl Eller, owner of a publicity enterprise and an important businessman, the investor Don Pitt, Don Diamond, Bhavik Darji, Marvin Meyer, and Richard Bloch. Besides, part of the group were 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 and still is 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 and the most important owner of the Phoenix Suns, an NBA basketball team, in 1968 the NBA Board of Governors decided that on January 22, 1968, Phoenix and Milwaukee would be granted franchises. They paid 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, the American daily newspaper that is published in the city of Phoenix, the winner was awarded $1,000 and season tickets to 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.
In the 1968 NBA Expansion Draft, notable Suns' pick-ups were future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich and Dick Van Arsdale.
Jerry Colangelo, a then-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 freshly minted 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 even became 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. While the Bucks went on to win the NBA Finals in 1971 and reach the Finals again in 1974, the Suns would not go to the Finals until 1976. 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, however they did not qualify for the playoffs in either year, and would not reach the playoffs again until 1976.
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 Gar Heard.
Phoenix had an "up-and-down" regular season, starting out at 14–9 (then the best start in team history), then went 4–18 during a stretch of which the team went through injuries (including "Original Sun" Dick Van Arsdale breaking his right arm in a February game), but they caught fire, going 24–13 in the final 37 games to finish 42–40, clinching their first playoff spot since 1970. The Suns faced the 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-ever Finals.
The Suns faced a battle-tested Celtics team, led by eventual Hall of Famers Dave Cowens and John Havlicek. The crucial Game 5 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, which was 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. However, the Suns' hard-fought battle would be short-lived, as Boston's little-used 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.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Suns enjoyed several successful seasons, making the playoffs 8 seasons in a row. Problems arose however, on and off 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 witchhunt, 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, 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.
The Suns' luck began to turn around in 1988, however, with the acquisition of Kevin Johnson from the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Mark West and Tyrone Corbin, for All-Star power forward Larry Nance. 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 (obtained via the trade involving Kevin Johnson). Kurt Rambis was added from the Charlotte Hornets in 1989, and the team (coached by Fitzsimmons), in an upset, beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games that season, before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. In 1991, the Suns went 55–27, but lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz, 3–1. In 1992, the Suns went 53–29. Having sent four players to the All-Star Game in the last two seasons (Chambers, Johnson, Hornacek and Majerle), the Suns started by sweeping the San Antonio Spurs in three games in the first round of the 1992 NBA Playoffs. But again, the Suns fell in five games to the Trail Blazers in the Conference Semifinals. The series was punctuated by a Game 4 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.
In 1992, the Suns moved into their new arena in downtown Phoenix, the America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena). The arena is occasionally referred to as the "Purple Palace" due to its purple seats, which is 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 season, 1992–1993.
In addition to Barkley, the Suns added some 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, as a player, member of the 1976 Suns squad that went to the NBA Finals), the Suns squad won 62 games, setting a franchise record (since tied in 2004–05). In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the eighth-seeded Lakers, coming back from an 0–2 deficit in the five-game series. The Suns went on to eliminate the Spurs and SuperSonics, advancing to the 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 included a triple-overtime game (Game 3) that along with Game 5 of the 1976 series are 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 (son of Jerry) initiated what proved to be a very 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 as well as in the Suns locker room. The trade was made to address the Suns' need of a shot-blocking center, but proved frustrating as Majerle's presence was sorely missed, and Williams's production never met expectations.
The 1995–96 season turned into a very disappointing year for the Suns (despite drafting NBA All-Rookie First Team member Michael Finley, who was later unavailable for the playoffs due to injury) in which they 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; the trade did not produce the results either team had hoped for. (The feud between Barkley and Colangelo has since been repaired, and Barkley has appeared at a number of Suns' home games in the years since. He was also present to see his number retired into the Suns "Ring Of Honor" in 2004.) As for the Suns, three of the four players were not with the franchise one year later, and furthermore two of the most talented players (being Horry and Cassell) constantly clashed with the coach and seemed to be a negative influence in the locker room.
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. With Kidd starting at the point, 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).
After the Barkley trade, the Suns began the 1996–97 season 0–13 which was a franchise record for the worst start. During the 13-game losing streak Fitzsimmons stepped down as 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, in a series that almost upset the highly favored Sonics. Despite the loss in the playoffs, the Suns became one of the few NBA teams, if not the only, 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+-game losing streak during the regular season (last until the 2002 Toronto Raptors). In the off-season prior to the 2000 NBA season, the Suns traded for perennial All-Star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway stirring a large amount of hype by creating the tandem of Kidd and Hardaway, which was called "Backcourt 2000". However, the combination of Hardaway and Kidd was never fully realized as Hardaway missed a number of games during the middle of the 1999–2000 season and Kidd broke his ankle going into the playoffs just as Hardaway began his return to the court. As the Suns, now led by the returned Hardaway, entered the 2000 playoffs, they beat the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs by ousting them from the playoffs 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 at Hardaway's side 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 campaign, 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. Lottery-bound, however, the Suns were able to draft Amar'e Stoudemire.
The 2002–03 campaign saw the emergence of Stoudemire, a graduate from Cypress Creek High School (Orlando, Florida). He became the first and only high school player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year in the 2002–03 season (until LeBron James did it the following season), during which the Suns posted a record of 44–38 and returned to the playoffs. Marbury had a stellar 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 found themselves out of the playoffs. 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.
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. However, 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. This was a major improvement from its 29-53 record just the season before. They ended up setting a team record for greatest 1-season improvement, 33 games. This feat was made possible by the off-season unrestricted FA signing of All-Star point guard Steve Nash from Dallas who had formerly played for them 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 6 into OT with a 3-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. Joe Johnson went on to start the remaining games where he averaged 40 minutes per game and 18.3 PPG. The Suns lost the first 2 at home, as well as the following game in San Antonio to fall behind 3–0 in the series, escaping with a win in Game 4 at San Antonio 111–106. The team then lost Game 5 at home 101–95 to be eliminated from the playoffs. Stoudemire averaged 37.0 ppg 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. He missed all but three games that year. Along with that, shooting guard Joe Johnson demanded a sign-and-trade deal to the Atlanta Hawks, in which the Suns got Boris Diaw along with two future first round picks. Other acquisitions that year included Raja Bell and Kurt Thomas. Despite the turnover in players, the Suns were once again able to win the Pacific 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 (Magic Johnson was the first) 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 Game 1 in Phoenix, they found themselves trailing in the series 3–1 after impressive performances by Laker shooting guard Kobe Bryant. However, the Suns went on to win three straight games. They won Game 5 easily at home. With 7:33 left in the 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 6 in OT, their first OT win all season despite 50 points from Bryant and Bell out serving a one-game suspension (for a flagrant foul against Bryant in Game 5) with last second help from mid-season acquisition Tim Thomas. On their home court, the Suns won Game 7 121–90, eliminating the Lakers for the first time since 1993. The Suns became only the eighth team 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 faced a huge deficit in Game 5 but fought back and won in double OT and after a Game 6 loss finally won the series in the decisive seventh game on their home court at US Airways Center, winning by a margin of 20 with an NBA record 15 3-point FG's on May 22, 2006.
They went on to play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. Underdogs this time, the Suns took Game 1 in Dallas by a single point and their May 30 victory in Game 4 marked the most wins thus far for the franchise in a Conference Finals series since the 1993 season. Many credit this success (despite losing Stoudemire) to the emergence of Diaw, Bell (out for two games of the series due to injury), and Barbosa as clutch playoff performers; and an overall team depth they did not possess the previous season. The Suns lost Games 5 and 6 by a combined 25 points and were eliminated from the series on June 3, 2006 in Game 6.
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. With Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Amar'e Stoudamire (and to a lesser degree Joe Johnson and Raja Bell), the Suns were arguably the NBA's most entertaining and exciting team.
The Suns entered the 2006–07 season with their Eyes on the Prize objective, aiming to win the first championship in franchise history. From November 20-December 22, the Suns posted a 15-game win streak, followed almost immediately with a 17-game win streak from December 29-January 28. On March 14, the 49-14 Suns met the 52-10 Dallas Mavericks in a marquee matchup with big implications: 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 Dirk would narrowly win the MVP award ahead of Nash.
However while the Mavericks were upset in the first round by the eight-seed Golden State Warriors, the 61-21 Suns would handily defeat 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 offseason 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 long considered injury-prone, experienced a career renaissance of sorts with the Suns playing in 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 midseason acquisition of aging former MVP Shaquille O'Neal for four-time All Star Shawn Marion. Though Shaq 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 on the cusp of a Finals appearance.
On May 11, 2008, Suns Head Coach Mike D'Antoni left the team and signed with the New York Knicks.
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 offseason, 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, the Suns fired Terry 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, Alvin 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 8 weeks. They went 18–13 under Alvin Gentry in the last 31 games. At the end of the season the Suns missed the playoffs with a 46–36 record. The offseason brought uncertainty for the Suns, with the possibility of rebuilding the base of the team.
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 3 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 V.P. 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.
Since mid-2010, the Suns have been in a rebuilding mode. While the Suns did resign Amar'e Stoudemire in the 2010 free agency period with a 5-year contract for around $95 million, Stoudemire received $71 million guaranteed, with 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 superstar 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 also hired Lance Blanks to be their general manager as a means to make moves for their future while also competing during this period. 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 were looking to have more successes in the next season after missing the playoffs despite a successful run that resulted in a conference championship appearance for the team. In the 2011 NBA draft in June 2011, the Suns used their 13th pick selecting Markieff Morris, standing about 6' 10", a power forward from the Kansas Jayhawks. Markieff is the twin brother of Marcus Morris, who played together for 3 years in Kansas and also currently plays for the Detroit Pistons. 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.
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, it was announced that 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, which was their second-worst record in franchise history, behind only their inaugural season.
On April 22, 2013, it was announced that the Suns had fired General Manager Lance Blanks, who had been the GM since August 5, 2010. On May 7, 2013, former Celtics assistant GM Ryan McDonough was announced as the new GM of the Suns. On May 26, 2013, the Suns hired former Sun Jeff Hornacek as their head coach to replace interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. A day later, the Suns hired Washington Wizards director of player personnel Pat Connelly and former Lakers assistant general manager Ronnie Lester as new master talent evaluators. The Suns also hired Emilio Kovačić as an international scouting consultant and Trevor Bukstein as an assistant general manager. Before officially announcing their newest assistant head coaches, lead assistant Igor Kokoškov left to be an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On June 12, it was announced that not only was Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson no longer an assistant head coach, but the team also had former Suns player Mark West and former Washington Wizards assistant coach Jerry Sichting as the team's newest assistant head coaches. The Suns later announced that former Suns player Kenny Gattison and former Boston Celtics assistant coach Mike Longabardi would be added to the coaching staff, replacing assistant coaches Noel Gillespie, Dan Panaggio, and Corey Gaines in the process, although Gaines would still do further work with the Suns organization. The team would also start the new season with modified logos that the team originally had, replacing most of the purple involved 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 the Maryland with their 5th pick and power forward Alex Oriakhi from the Missouri with their 57th pick. In addition, they traded their 30th pick to the Golden State Warriors for shooting guards Archie Goodwin from the Kentucky (who was selected one pick earlier) and Malcolm Lee on the same day. On July 2, 2013, the Suns agreed to a trade involving the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks, in which they gave up Jared Dudley to the Clippers and a 2014 second-round pick to the Bucks in exchange for point guard Eric Bledsoe and small forward Caron Butler, both of whom last played for the Clippers. The Suns also agreed to trade Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a 2014 top-14-protected first-round pick on July 27. The Suns later traded Butler to the Bucks for center Viacheslav Kravtsov and point guard Ish Smith on August 29. In addition, the Suns waived one of their biggest signings from last season, Michael Beasley, on September 3, 2013. Finally, before the 2013–14 NBA season began, the Suns traded center Marcin Gortat, along with guards Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall (whom the team drafted a year earlier), and Malcolm Lee, to the Washington Wizards for veteran forward-center Emeka Okafor and a top-12-protected 2014 first-round draft pick.
The Suns were predicted to have a league-worst 16-66 season. The Suns' season proved opposite. Phoenix began the season 16–10. Eric Bledsoe (a main reason to the early success) went down against the Los Angeles Clippers with a torn meniscus, which occurred when the Suns were 19–11 on the season. Bledsoe missed 33 games due to the injury and the Suns went 17–16 during his absence. Phoenix went over 0.500 during that period thanks to consistent play from Gerald Green, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee. This was being led by a breakout season by Goran Dragić, who led Phoenix to a 36–27 record while Bledsoe was out, which set Phoenix up for a strong playoff push, which nearly had Dragić on the brink of an All-Star selection. Phoenix was in a tight playoff race with the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks and coincidentally the three teams faced one another in the last week of the regular season. Before these teams faced off, Phoenix was sitting at 47–32 while Dallas and Memphis were both 48–32. Phoenix lost against both Memphis and Dallas and beat Sacramento Kings to finish the season 48–34, Dallas beat Phoenix and lost to Memphis to finish 49–33, and Memphis beat both Phoenix and Dallas to finish 50–32. This resulted in Memphis finishing with the 7th seed, Dallas finishing with the 8th seed and Phoenix finishing with the 9th seed. This was an upset for the Suns, who were making a push for the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference.
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 after losing key player 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 after months of inactivity between both sides for a new offer. A couple of days after, on September 29, 2014, they extended both Markieff and Marcus Morris to 4-year deals that combine to $52 million, with Markieff earning $32 million while Marcus gets the remaining $20 million.
Right before the trade deadline on February 19, 2015, however, the Suns made moves to change the team made 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 right after the trade, the Suns made a surprising move in replacing Dragić by trading for Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight, sending away Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee while also sending the Lakers' 2015 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. Isaiah Thomas was then traded right after to the Boston Celtics for Marcus Thornton and the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 first-round pick.
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. The Suns also drafted Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison as well with their 44th pick, but they traded him immediately afterward to the Memphis Grizzlies for power forward Jon Leuer. On July 1, 2015, the Suns would retain the rights of Brandon Knight under an offer similar to that of Eric Bledsoe's, as well as sign Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler to a 4-year deal worth $52 million. A day later, as a move that people at the time considered a plan to sign power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Suns would trade Markieff's brother Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Danny Granger to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for their 2020 second round selection. After failing to get Aldridge, the Suns would sign short-term deals for Sonny Weems, Ronnie Price, and Mirza Teletović. The Suns would also replace assistant coaches Kenny Gattison and Mark West with former player Earl Watson, Bakersfield Jam affiliate coach Nate Bjorkgren, and former Harlem Globetrotter Jason Fraser. However, things would go wrong for the team that season on December 26, 2015 with a season-ending injury to leading star player Eric Bledsoe.
On February 1, 2016, the Suns announced that they'd relieved Jeff Hornacek of his duties as head coach. Later, former NBA player Earl Watson took on interim head coaching duties. The Suns traded the disgruntled Markieff Morris away on February 19, 2016 to the Washington Wizards for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and the Wizards' first round pick at #13 in the 2016 NBA draft. On March 14, 2016 the Suns were eliminated from playoff contention for a 6th straight season making it the longest drought in franchise history surpassing the 5 straight misses from the 1970–71 NBA season to the 1974–75 NBA season. However, it was also the season where a rookie named Devin Booker went from being a sixth-man off the bench for Kentucky to being considered a leading force for the future with his play due to 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 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.Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1968–1992)
Talking Stick Resort Arena (1992–present)
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 decoration of the uniforms (numbers, names and logos on both side of the jerseys) were accent with orange while the purple was used as a color so as to emphasize the stripes and the decorations of it, which lent a crisp, dark accent color to complement the orange just inside. Since their debut, the Suns home uniforms have been always white coloured with purple and orange trim. When playing abroad, their uniforms are normally purple with white and orange trim, with accents of black during the 1990s and gray on the current versions. They also had a black alternate uniform from 1994–2000.
When talking about the font and the logos, the franchise was still under a recruitment plan in order to get a team up and become competitive in the following seasons, so fanciness and styles were left apart (The only stylistic issue they had was in their shorts: a big sunburst on each side of the short, and a wide stripe on the area of the waist, made with the colours purple-orange-purple)". Their first jerseys had the word Phoenix in a Western-stylized font. Those jerseys were worn by their beginnings up until the 1992–93 season, though it had revisions (e.g. the futuristic-looking 'Phoenix' word-mark used from 1968–74). During the remainder of the 1990s, Phoenix replaced the Western font with the new Suns logo being a part of their jerseys. Starting at the beginning of the 2000–01 season, the Suns ended using their normal font for Phoenix on the road and Suns at home.
On October 20, 2003, an alternate orange uniform was introduced that was to be used at a minimum, five games a year, both at home and on the road. At the time, it was the only uniform in the NBA that has an abbreviated version of the city name, Phoenix, across the front chest; since then the Atlanta Hawks donned a similar alternate jersey starting in 2009, followed by the New Orleans Hornets in 2010. The meaning of the alternate uniform was to highlight the called "Planet Orange" era, period when the Suns made the Western Conference three times in six seasons (holding one of the most famous comebacks of all the franchises of the NBA, making a comeback from a 3-1 first-round déficit against the Lakers, fighting hand to hand against the Spurs throughout the postseason and finally, getting a place in the NBA Finals. For the 2006–07 season, the Suns removed the uniform number from the side of the shorts, replacing it with the same sun logo that is found on the other side.
During the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Suns announced they would wear uniforms with the words "Los Suns" to honor their Latino fans 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. The uniform has been used during NBA Noche Latina events every March since the 2007–08 season.
The Suns updated two of their alternative logos and the court design for the 2012–13 season. The Suns unveiled the rest of their new logos the following season (2013–14). The new uniforms that the team unveiled on August 15, 2013 by Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, and Caron Butler (the last of whom was traded two weeks later) included a sunburst of nine lines on the front of their jerseys signifying the nine players the Suns retired at the time, with the team returning to an ambigram Suns name for their home and alternative sleeved jerseys; Phoenix remained on the road uniform with an updated style. An updated Sun was also found on each of their shorts. The Suns proclaim these new jerseys as the "Speed of Light" jerseys. On November 26, 2013, the Suns revealed an updated version of their "Los Suns" Noche Latina jerseys that would be worn during a March 2014 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Twitter. During the 2013–14 season, the Suns' jerseys was a white home jersey, a purple road jersey, an orange alternative sleeved jersey, and a special "Noche Latina" black alternative sleeved jersey.
For the team's 2014–15 season, the Suns introduced their PHX Rising pride uniform: a gray jersey with a callback to the Old West "Phoenix" font logo on the front of the jersey, added to other stylistic adaptations suchs as the classic sunburst adorning each side of the short used in the first uniforms (The first time this uniform was used was in February 26, when the Phoenix Suns faced Oklahoma City at the US Airways Center). Also, another version of the Los Suns uniform was introduced. The colors and styles were the same one, although the name "Los Suns" was changed to "Phoenix"
Entering the team's 2015–16 season, NBA 2K16 leaked out a minor upgraded court design for the Suns, replacing the "SUNS" ambigram on the center with the Sunburst found in the team's main logo, as well as added an hashtag for "WE ARE PHX" on the long sidelines, added purple coloring for the lines within the court, and updated the team's arena name on the side. The Suns would also reveal two different alternative jerseys in the process. The first one would be a black alternative jersey where the team would have a black jersey with PHX on front (with a white outline) representing the team's slogan for the season, while the second would be the orange alternative jerseys with sleeves on them (it became the first-ever sleeved jersey in franchise history and paired the look with a fan-friendly event: Orange Friday. Every time the Suns host a game on the last day of the work week, Phoenix breaks out its orange alternates and invites fans to arrive in similarly colored gear.). The Suns released the new alternate black uniform and court design on September 8, 2015. The Suns would update their court once again for the 2016–17 season with NBA 2K17 leaking out the details again, this time replacing the black out-of-bounds area with the color purple, thus making it hold a similar design held back in the 1990s. The official reveal on September 6, 2016 also showcased that the only other change to the court for the 2016–17 season from their previous season was removing the # for the "WE ARE PHX" slogan
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, who kept coming to games until he was officially invited to be part of the team. And this is how this mascot was accidentally born. The messenger, a quiet young man named Henry Rojas, was anything but quiet in his costume. An early attempt was made involving a sunflower costume, but it never caught on. Given a Suns warm-up jacket, Rojas shed his shyness, and turned into an entertainment beast, dancing, joking with fans and, in general, enjoying himself to the fullest. Nowadays, the Suns Gorilla is one of the most famous mascots in the NBA.
Affectionately nicknamed "Go" and towering at a whopping five-foot "ape", the Gorilla is the Phoenix Suns favorite primate. Most notably, fans are familiar with the Gorilla for his on the court antics where he raises the Phoenix Suns flag in the name of team-pride, performs notorious slam dunk routines and fires up the crowd. From his early days in the Banana Republic to his education at Fur-man University, the Gorilla has always had a passion for basketball. Before his debut with the Phoenix Suns, the Gorilla delivered singing telegrams. However, in 1980 the Gorilla's fate changed when he stepped onto the court during a game and surprised unsuspecting players and fans. His antics became an instant hit and the Gorilla has been a member of the Phoenix Suns ever since. Since then, the gorilla, has been known for his slapstick humor during the games such as his stadium stairs all to the sound of the Rocky Theme, and the fantastic dunks that are performed before each 4th quarter. The Gorilla would do a few push-ups on the court, then head off in a quest to climb the stairs of both the lower and upper level of the Coliseum to get to the top. When he reached the base of the upper level, he’d stop for a second to soak up the applause, then head to the top of the building. When he got there, the crowd would explode. It never failed. Also, one of his more beloved skits was at a Knicks home game where he came out to Frank Sinatra's Theme from New York, wearing a hat, with several pieces of garbage stuck to his leg. Halfway through the song, a group of "muggers" attacked him, and he staggered off the court afterwards. Give him credit, The Gorilla has always been more than a slapstick comedian. In a way, though, that's what makes The Gorilla so much fun. He's not really there just to cheer on the Suns – although he does so with great enthusiasm. The Gorilla just wants to have fun, and wants the rest of us to have fun with him.
Though Rojas has gone on to a life without a costume, The Gorilla continues to entertain fans, not only at Suns games, but around the country as well. He has gotten involved over the years in numerous charity projects. Any time people see him, however, two things come to mind – Suns basketball and fun! It's hard to imagine a Suns game without The Gorilla, but for 11-plus seasons, the team had no official mascot. There was one attempt to create a Suns-related mascot, with a sunflower costume. The idea, however, never really caught on. It appears we’re stuck, happily, with this furry goodwill ambassador. These days, the king of the jungle now rules as the dean of NBA mascots after his 2005 induction into the Mascot Hall of Fame. The Gorilla makes over 350 appearances a year with charities, schools, hospitals and local businesses. In addition to attending Phoenix Suns home games, Go has also become a world-traveler making appearances in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. He can also be found around the United States at various sporting events. When the Gorilla is not working he enjoys long walks on the court, high flying slam dunks and eating bananas.
Go has been played by three different men since his inception as their mascot. Henry Rojas performed for the Suns from the Gorilla's inception in 1980 until the end of the 1987–88 NBA season. Bob Woolf took over the role afterwards, and he helped introduce some of the biggest staples Go holds. He performed as the Gorilla from the 1988–89 NBA season until the 2005–06 season. The most recent Suns' Gorilla was Devin Nelson, who performed from the 2006–07 NBA season until the end of the 2011–12 season. Bob Woolf ended up resuming his role as Go once Devin Nelson left, fulfilling his role as the all-time best mascot.
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 isn't 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.Notes:
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 (1988–92) and head coach (1992–1996).
The Suns' All-Century Team was voted on by the fans:
The 40th Anniversary Suns Team – selected by the vote of the fans through the Internet – was unveiled on January 3, 2008, when 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.G Dick Van Arsdale
G Kevin Johnson
G Steve Nash
G Walter Davis
G Paul Westphal
G/F Dan Majerle
F Connie Hawkins
F Tom Chambers
F Charles Barkley
F Shawn Marion
F/C Amar'e Stoudemire
C Alvan Adams
Notes: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 as coach. Never coached the Suns.
3 Inducted posthumously.
4 He also coached the Suns (1970 and 1972–1973) and was the owner of the team (1987–2004).
5 Inducted as player.
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, California 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.