While the Phoenix Suns have yet to snag an NBA title in their history, they’ve still had a number of great moments. These are moments that die-hard Suns fans will remember for years to come, and they’re hoping the franchise will be able to provide more, perhaps as soon as this postseason.
Let’s take a look at the five best moments in Suns history.
5.) Kevin Johnson slam over Hakeem Olajuwon (Game 4, 1994 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Houston Rockets)
Everyone knows Kevin Johnson could get up there. Yes, he stands just 6-foot-1, but he had plenty of nasty finishes at the rim. In Game 4 of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals, the odds were stacked against Johnson. After all, he was about to spike one over 7-foot stud Hakeem Olajuwon, who had been crowned Most Valuable Player of the Year and had just bagged his second Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
But lo and behold, Johnson mustered his courage, hops, and tenacity when he aggressively drove the baseline. As expected, Olajuwon was there to meet him at the top. But Johnson wasn’t fazed. Yes, Olajuwon is one of the greatest of all time, but the 6-foot-1 guard was determined to score:
4.) Rex Chapman game-tying shot (Game 4, 1997 first round vs. Seattle SuperSonics)
This is probably one of the greatest game-tying shots in NBA history. Down by three points with 4.3 seconds left, the Suns had to execute a play to perfection. A young Jason Kidd was tasked to deliver the critical inbounds pass. However, Kidd seemed to overthrow the lob. It could’ve easily been the worst inbounds pass in NBA history.
However, the ball landed right in the hands of a drifting Rex Chapman, who took two steps to gain a rhythm, faded out of bounds, and tossed up a high-arching shot. The shot didn’t even graze the rim — it was all net. And more importantly, it tied the game and sent it to overtime:
It’s unfortunate that the Suns went on to lose the game. Yet this fact doesn’t take away its place as one of the best moments in Suns history.
3.) Charles Barkley series-winner (Game 6, 1993 Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Antonio Spurs)
People now know Charles Barkley as that fun-loving guy on “Inside The NBA” whom Shaquille O’Neal likes to pick on. But people sometimes forget Barkley was one of the greatest players of all time. In his stint with the Suns, he drained a series-winner over The Admiral, David Robinson.
Barkley was named Most Valuable Player of the 1992-93 season. With the game on the line, it was a no-brainer for the team to give the ball to Sir Charles.
After taking care of the Spurs in six games, the Barkley-led team battled it out in a seven-game series with the Seattle SuperSonics. For just the second time in franchise history, the Suns made it all the way to the NBA Finals, only to lose to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.
2.) The greatest playoff game in NBA history (Game 5, 1976 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics)
The triple-overtime thriller in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns is widely known as the greatest playoff game in NBA history. It’s the second overtime that made this game a classic. A total of seven points were scored in a matter of five seconds.
After John Havlicek banked in a jumper to put the Celtics up 111-110, the Boston crowd, thinking that the game was a wrap, flocked to center court, causing a ruckus. The referees put a second back on the clock. With the possession belonging to the Suns, guard Paul Westphal sneakily called a timeout. The referees granted it, but since they had none left, they got tagged with a technical. Jo Jo White knocked down the technical free throw to give the Celtics a 112-110 lead.
What cemented this game as the greatest playoff game of all time was Garfield Heard’s shot to force a third overtime:
However, just like the Rex Chapman shot, the Suns failed to win in overtime. But it was still one hell of a game.
1.) Mike D’Antoni-coached Suns record 62-20 record, revolutionize the game with uptempo style (2004-05 regular season)
The 2004-05 Suns roster was comprised of Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Quentin Richardson, Joe Johnson, and Leandro Barbosa, among others. They were led by Mike D’Antoni, who at that time was trying to make his mark in the NBA after a ton of past success in Europe. The turning point of his career came in the aforementioned season. He introduced a high-octane and uptempo offense that became known as “Seven Seconds or Less.”
The Suns’ style caught opponents off guard. They ranked first in points per game, offensive rating, pace, and cruised to a regular-season best 62 wins. D’Antoni himself won Coach of the Year honors, with Nash bagging the first of two consecutive MVPs. Though this Suns team never had championship success in the playoffs (they lost in the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006), their influence can still be felt today.