The Phoenix Suns went from being one of the Western Conference’s most feared teams in the 2000s to becoming consistent cellar-dwellers for the better part of the 2010s.
The winds of change started to blow in their favor when they drafted Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker in 2015 and the franchise has never looked back since then.
Booker saw how much his team struggled in his early seasons with the franchise, but he was committed to helping restore the Suns back to their former glory as he continued to improve exponentially every season.
Things came to a head in the 2019-20 NBA season that was shortened by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Suns were among 22 teams invited into the 2020 Orlando Bubble–nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the West (Phoenix was ranked 13th at the time of the restart).
Phoenix’s inclusion was questioned by many observers since it did not look like they deserved a spot since they had a 26-39 record then.
However, mathematical odds at the time showed that they could qualify for the newly-instituted Play-In Tournament with one major caveat: they would need to go undefeated in eight games while hoping teams ranked ahead of them lost their games.
To everyone’s surprise, the Suns had rattled off two straight victories to kickstart their campaign with a 13-point win over the Washington Wizards and a closely contested two-point victory against longtime rivals Dallas Mavericks.
Their next game would be one of the toughest on their schedule as they were going head-to-head with the Los Angeles Clippers, who were projected to make a conference finals appearance, on August 4, 2020.
It was a see-saw battle that saw both teams snatch leads from one another multiple times throughout the game, but the winner would be decided with a buzzer-beating game-winner.
With 31.3 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 115, the Suns had possession of the ball and point guard Ricky Rubio was forced into a wonderfully contested shot.
The Suns had another opportunity to win the game after lanky forward Mikal Bridges deflected Ivica Zubac’s ill-advised outlet pass with the ball ending up in the hands of Booker with 8.1 seconds remaining.
Paul George met him near the logo and as Zubac attempted to help George, this gave Booker the open lane to his left.
Booker faked a pass to Cameron Johnson on the right wing, dove into the paint, and was met by Kawhi Leonard, which Booker sent into the air with a shot fake.
He turned around and drilled the game-winner right in the face of George for the victory and his signature pose.
The Suns would go on to do the inevitable and shock the league by going undefeated but failed to qualify for the play-in tournament after the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Brooklyn Nets in their eighth game of the bubble in a nail-biter.
Little did NBA fans know at the time, but their performance then served as the catalyst for their current run of success and opened up the arrival of Chris Paul.
The Suns made the NBA Finals a season later and though they stumbled in the Western Conference Semifinals this past year, there is no denying that something special is brewing in The Valley and it all began two years ago to the day.
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