Phoenix Suns NBA History



3 Questions

How did the Suns become renowned worldwide for their quick, dynamic offense?

What was the significance of the 1975-76 season for the Suns?

What did the Suns do to turn around their luck in 1988?


  • The Suns were one of two teams to join the NBA in 1968.

  • The Suns played their first 24 seasons at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

  • The Suns were formed by an ownership group led by Karl Eller, owner of a public enterprise, the investor Donald Pitt, Don Diamond, Bhavik Darji, Marvin Meyer, and Richard L. Bloch.

  • Other owners with a minority stake consisted of entertainers, such as Andy Williams, Bobbie Gentry, and Ed Ames.

  • There were many critics, including then-NBA commissioner J. Walter Kennedy, who said the Suns would never be successful.

  • The Suns reached the playoffs for a franchise-record thirteen consecutive appearances and remained a regular title contender throughout the 1990s.

  • The Suns again failed to win an NBA championship, and entered into another period of mediocrity until the early parts of the 2000s.

  • In 2004, the Suns signed free agent Steve Nash, and returned into playoff contention.

  • With Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar'e Stoudemire, and under head coach Mike D'Antoni, the Suns became renowned worldwide for their quick, dynamic offense, which led them to tie a franchise record in wins in the 2004–05 season.

  • Two more top two Conference placements followed, but the Suns again failed to attain an NBA championship.

  • After ten consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, the Suns reached the 2021 NBA Finals after acquiring Chris Paul, forming a quartet with their young core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges.

  • The Suns own the NBA's fifth-best all-time winning percentage, and have the second highest winning percentage of any team to have never won an NBA championship.

  • In 1968, the NBA Board of Governors granted franchises to Phoenix and Milwaukee.

  • The Suns nickname was one of 28,000 entries that were formally chosen in a name-the-team contest sponsored by The Arizona Republic.

  • Stan Fabe, who owned a commercial printing plant in Tucson, designed the team's first iconic logo for a mere $200.

  • However, they were disappointed with the results.

  • In 1969, Jerry Colangelo, then a player scout, came over from the Chicago Bulls as the Suns' first general manager.

  • In 1970, the Suns finished with 48- and 49-win seasons, but did not qualify for the playoffs.

  • The 1975–76 season proved to be a pivotal year for the Suns as they made several key moves, including the off-season trade of former All-Star guard Charlie Scott to the Boston Celtics.

  • 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 Garfield Heard.

  • Phoenix had an inconsistent regular season, starting out at 14–9 (then the best start in team history), then went 4–18 during a stretch where the team sustained several injuries (including Dick Van Arsdale breaking his right arm in a February game).

  • However, the Suns then went 24–13 in the final 37 games to finish 42–40, clinching their first playoff spot since 1970.

  • The Sun

In the 1968 NBA expansion draft, notable Suns' pickups were future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich and Dick Van Arsdale.

The 1975–76 season proved to be a pivotal year for the Suns as they made several key moves, including the off-season trade of former All-Star guard Charlie Scott to the Boston Celtics.

The Suns then went 24–13 in the final 37 games to finish 42–40, clinching their first playoff spot since 1970.

  • The Suns enjoyed several successful seasons in the late 1970s and early 1980s, making the playoffs eight seasons in a row.

  • Problems arose on and off the 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.

  • However, the scandal, although now perceived in many respects to be a witch hunt[18] 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 at the start of the 1987–88 season, 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.

  • In 1988–92, the Suns went 55–27 but lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz, 3–1.

  • In 1991–92, the Suns went 53–29. Having sent four players to the All-Star Game in the previous two seasons (Chambers, Johnson, Hornacek, and Majerle), the Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs in the 1992 NBA Finals.

  • The Suns' luck began to turn around in 1988 with the acquisition of Kevin Johnson from the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Mark West and Tyrone Corbin, for All-Star power forward Larry Nance and Mike Sanders.

  • In 1992, the Suns moved to their new arena, the America West Arena.

  • 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 1992-93 season.

  • In addition to Barkley, the Suns added key players to their roster, including Danny Ainge and draftees Arkansas center Oliver Miller and forward Richard Dumas.

  • Under rookie head coach Paul Westphal, a former Suns assistant and player with the 1976 Suns in the NBA Finals, the Suns won 62 games in 1992-93, setting a franchise record.

  • In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the eighth-seeded Lakers, coming back from a 0-2 deficit in the five-game series.

  • The Suns then eliminated the Spurs and SuperSonics, advancing to the NBA 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 Suns continued to be successful in the regular season, going 178–68 during the 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-95 seasons.

  • At the end of the 1994-95 season, Phoenix general manager Bryan Colangelo initiated an eventually costly trade,[citation needed] sending the All-Star Majerle and a first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for John "Hot Rod" Williams.

  • The 1995-96 season was a disappointing year for the Suns, despite drafting NBA All-Rookie First Team member Michael Finley.

  • The Suns 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,[citation needed] led to turmoil in Barkley's relationship with Jerry Colangelo, who was the team's general manager.


Test your knowledge of the Phoenix Suns' history in the NBA. From their formation in 1968, notable players, key seasons, playoff appearances, ownership changes, and memorable moments, this quiz covers various aspects of the Suns' journey through the years.

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