Since entering the league in 1968, the Phoenix Suns have served as a standard of sustained success. Entering its 47th season (2014-2015), Phoenix holds the NBA’s fourth-best winning percentage of all time (.553). Since experiencing their first taste of playoff basketball in just their second year of existence, the Suns have made the postseason 29 times, advanced to the Western Conference Finals nine times, and reached the NBA Finals twice (1976, 1993).
Over the course of its history, Phoenix has cemented its place as a key dot on the NBA map. The city has hosted three All-Star games (1975, 1995, 2009), tied for third-most in league history. Meanwhile the Suns have been well-represented in the midseason classic, sending players to the All-Star game 37 different seasons. Twenty-two of those times featured multiple Suns as Western Conference All-Stars, with other honors (Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, etc.) repeatedly going to the purple-and-orange team from the desert.
Here’s a closer look at the legends who have played for the Phoenix Suns over the years:
Dick Van Arsdale (1968-1977)
There is always a first, and the Suns couldn’t have done much better for their first player in team history. Van Arsdale breathed basketball life into the Valley with a frenetic style of play that never abated. The league saw that (along with his averages of 16.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game) as reason enough to throw a trio of All-Star honors his way. “The Original Sun” set the Suns’ tone of speed and effort for decades to come.
Connie Hawkins (1969-1974)
Nicknamed “The Hawk” for both his name and his game, Hawkins soared straight from the old American Basketball Association to the NBA. A four-time All-Star and Ring of Honor member for the Suns, Hawkins also led the team to its first-ever playoff appearance in 1970, where they nearly upset the heavily favored Lakers.
Alvan Adams (1975-1988)
The unassuming “Oklahoma Kid” played with a flair that belied his down-to-earth upbringing. Despite measuring just 6-9, Adams cemented his place as one of the better centers in the league right away. A historic Rookie of the Year season helped vault the “Sunderella Suns” to a surprising NBA Finals berth. It also earned him the rare honor of being a rookie in the All-Star game. His versatility made him a long-lasting talent, one that spent his entire career in a Suns uniform.
Paul Westphal (1975-1980; 1992-96)
When the Suns traded for Westphal in 1975, even they couldn’t have predicted he’d be one of the best guards in the league. In his six seasons in Phoenix, he averaged over 20 points and five assists per game while making four All-Star teams, three All-NBA First Teams and the team’s first-ever NBA Finals appearance. He returned in the 1990s, albeit as a head coach, to guide the Suns to a second trip to the Finals.
Walter Davis (1977-1988)
Dubbed as “The Man With the Velvet Touch”, Davis’s smooth jump shot wreaked havoc on Suns opponents for over a decade. Eleven seasons and 15,666 total points later, Davis wound up as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He represented the Suns in six All-Star games, his very first one coming in his Rookie of the Year season.
Kevin Johnson (1988-2000)
When Phoenix first acquired Johnson in a mid-season trade, he was a backup point guard. By the time he retired for good in 2000, he had become one of the most beloved Suns players of all time, known for his ferocity in attacking the rim as well as his work within the community. “KJ” donned three All-Star jerseys, was named to an All-NBA team in five different seasons, and won the league’s Most Improved Player award in his first full season with the Suns.
Dan Majerle (1988-1995, 2001-02)
Booed when his name was announced to unknowing Suns fans on draft, “Thunder Dan” quickly turned those boos to cheers. His trademark of hustle and, later, three-point shooting (first in threes made in 1992-93, 1993-94) won over the Phoenix faithful. He represented the team in the All-Star Game in three different seasons, all while making his home and presence a permanent fixture in the Valley.
Tom Chambers (1988-1993)
The first unrestricted free agent in NBA history could pick his destination in 1988. He chose Phoenix, and it’s a good thing he did. Chambers’ aerial attacks on the rim and knack for scoring in almost every way possible galvanized the Suns to a new era of winning results. His three All-Star appearances and over 20 points per game wrote yet another outstanding chapter of individual excellence in Suns history.
Charles Barkley (1992-1996)
MVP. All-Star. Olympian. There was little that the “Round Mound of Rebound” didn’t achieve. His arrival via trade in 1992 elevated the already lofty expectations in the Valley. He didn’t disappoint, turning in a Most Valuable Player-award winning season into a trip to the NBA Finals. He was an All-Star one of his four years in Phoenix, which were marked by levels of success and humor that were unrivaled before or since.
Steve Nash (1996-98, 2004-12)
The small, Canadian prospect that almost no college wanted to recruit became a household name during his second stint in a Suns uniform. Nash redefined the identity of NBA basketball with his fast-paced, highly efficient play on the court. His six All-Star appearances, five All-NBA honors, six assists titles and back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards (2005, 2006) only begin to describe the revolution of free-wheeling basketball Nash wrought not just in the Valley, but across the league.