Suns Fans Rise Here in the Community

The Stand staff show their support for the Phoenix Suns during the NBA Playoffs.

The Phoenix Suns ended the regular season as the No. 2 team in the West, making it to the playoffs after a decade. They played teams with superstar players including LeBron James, 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers to play the No. 3 team in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the NBA Finals for the championship title. 

Nathaniel Nickels and his son Hawk enjoyed cheering on the Phoenix Suns during their NBA Finals run. Photo Courtesy of Nathaniel Nickels

The Phoenix Suns started the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers and beat them in the series 4-2. They then went to play the Denver Nuggets, beating the NBA MVP in a sweep. Then they battled with the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference title, eliminating the Clippers in the series 4-2. 

Since the Suns rose to the NBA Finals, fans in the Salt River Pima Maricopa-Indian Community have been taking part in events like attending finals games, airport greetings, watch parties and more. 

Six-year-old Roanyn Acosta joined more than 20,000 fans as they welcomed the Phoenix Suns home after winning the Western Conference Finals. Photo courtesy of Georgia Acosta

Suns Welcomed Home at Sky Harbor

After Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, fans from the Valley and the SRPMIC rushed to Sky Harbor Airport to greet the Suns upon their return. More than 20,000 fans lined up for more than a mile and a half along the street to catch a glimpse of the Western Conference Champions. As their airplane flew over the crowd to land, fans screamed and cheered, showing love for their home team. Waiting for the players to drive by as they made their way home for a much-needed rest, fans couldn’t hold back their excitement. When the team’s vehicles started driving past, fans cheered for them on their big win. To everyone’s surprise, player Deandre Ayton held the Western Conference trophy, and following behind him Chris Paul and Devin Booker sat on the top of Booker’s car, high-fiving fans, signing memorabilia and filming for their social media. 

“It was so cool, oh my God!” said 6-year-old SRPMIC member Roanyn Acosta after leaving the airport with his mom Georgia Acosta. 

Shilo Smith also made it to the airport to greet the Suns. “It was cool, with everyone honking, everyone’s flags and everyone shouting and cheering,” said Smith. “When D’Book and Chris Paul came by, I freaked out and almost dropped my phone.”

Shilo Smith was fortunate to attend most of the finals home games with her friends. Photo courtesy of Shilo Smith

Game Time!

A number of Community members were able to attend at least one finals game. Shilo Smith was able to attend most home games since the playoffs started, only missing a couple. 

“The crowd has gotten louder,” said Smith about the games. “It was already loud to begin with, but now it’s intensified to where the next day I can’t hear anything. It’s so loud and it’s just so much fun; the energy is crazy.”

SRPMIC member Keith Andrews shared his excitement on social media when he purchased two tickets to Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks for himself and his dad, former Assistant Community Manager Kent Andrews. 

He explained that his dad used to take him to Suns games when he was a kid starting at “the Madhouse on McDowell,” the Coliseum, the former Suns arena. He wanted to surprise his dad, who has been a Phoenix Suns fan since the ’70s, with the tickets for his retirement gift. 

“This was definitely one for the books,” said Andrews on social media after the game. “Suns get the win and my dad and I got to attend a finals game.”

Keith Andrews treated his father former Assistant Community Manager Kent Andrews to a Phoenix Suns finals game for his retirement gift. Photo courtesy of Christi Andrews

Longtime Fans

While working at The Stand, Tony Santo and his co-workers show their support for the team by wearing T-shirts and Phoenix Suns facemasks. 

“Being a Suns fan all my life, I have always rooted for the home team. It has been a roller coaster, being that they had some great teams and players in the past …. Some of them were rewarded when they left the Suns; they did go to other teams and won championships there, and that really proved that they were great players,” said Santo. “But living here and watching the Suns play, we’ve been through ups and downs like every other city does. Back in the ’90s [when] we had [Charles] Barkley [and lost in the NBA Finals to the Chicago Bulls], that was really heartbreaking to see. To see it come again now, it’s like a full-circle situation and to be on top already and going to be world champions is unbelievable.”

Santo explained that after COVID-19 knocked everyone down, the Suns are bringing people back up. 

Gail Cruz is a big Suns fan, even having a Suns-themed party in 2019 for her 65th birthday. She explained that she enjoyed watching the games with her late son, Ben Cruz. 

“I feel happy that they made it. I’ve been watching them for a long time,” said Cruz. “I did stop watching them for a while after my son passed. He was a big fan. But I started watching again.”

She remembered how, when her son would watch the games, he would be yelling at the TV. 

“I could hear him in his room. He would be yelling really loud, especially at Reggie Miller, because he used to make those threes and he would get mad and yell at the TV,” said Cruz. 

Recently, she went to a watch party with her family for Game 2 against the Bucks. Her granddaughter invited her to attend a finals game, but due to COVID-19 she kindly declined. 

Note: The Phoenix Suns lost the NBA Championship to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was fun while it lasted. See you next year.

Longtime Phoenix Suns fan Gail Cruz was treated to a Suns-themed party in 2019 for her 65th birthday, she enjoyed watching her favorite team compete for the championship title. Photo courtesy of Rosa Cruz
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