As the Phoenix Suns left the floor after losing Game 5 of the 1992 Western Conference Semifinals to Portland and being eliminated from the playoffs, assistant coach Lionel Hollins to turned to Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons and muttered the phrase,
Little did he know that just a little over a month later, on June 17, 1992, his request would be granted, as the Suns sent Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang to Philadelphia in return for the Round Mound of Rebound.
That move, of course, sparked one of the most exciting and memorable seasons in franchise history. Now, on the 20th anniversary of the Suns’ run to the 1993 NBA Finals, we take a look back at that magical ride, through the eyes and mouths of those who lived it.
The following is a collection of quotes from members of that team, chronicling the 1992-93 season of Phoenix Suns basketball.
June 17, 1992 – Suns trade for 76ers power forward Charles Barkley, sending G Jeff Hornacek, F Tim Perry and C Andrew Lang to Philadelphia.
Charles Barkley: June 17th was one of the best days of my life. I got on the plane and bought drinks for everyone on the flight. The best thing about it was, they didn’t even charge me for the drinks. Good things started happening for me on that day and they didn’t stop.
President & CEO Jerry Colangelo: This team was in a position to end up with one of the top basketball players in the world. [The Barkley trade] adds some of the things we’ve needed for a long time. When you’re talking physical presence on the court, leadership on the court, it is there.
Barkley: I just finally had a good team around me. I obviously had been a big fan of Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tom Chambers. I didn’t have a lot of help in Philadelphia and I was so happy to just get here.
Sr Executive VP Cotton Fitzsimmons: We had to make a change in personnel to get to the next level. I can't think of another player, other than a few centers, who might be able to take us to another level better than Charles can.
Barkley: I told Cotton, “There is nobody in the Western Conference better than me. I can lead us to the Finals.” I’ve always wanted to play Michael Jordan with a good team. I know ain’t nobody is going to stop me in the Western Conference. I look forward to getting to the Finals and competing against Michael Jordan.
All-Star guard Kevin Johnson: [Barkley’s] competitiveness, his day-to-day attitude, his work ethic, that’s what is vital to success.
All-Star swingman Dan Majerle: The expectations were very high because of our success before, which was the reason we traded for Charles. We had to give up a couple of good players, a real good player in Hornacek, and Tim Perry (and Andrew Lang). Once we got Charles we expected him to be able to get us over the top and get us to the Finals.
Barkley: I have accomplished everything there is to accomplish in basketball, personally. All that’s left is an NBA Championship – that’s my ultimate goal.
Guard Frank Johnson: Everyone knew that this team was put together to make a championship run, especially when you bring in a Charles Barkley, who they knew would bring some excitement. He was just a character and people actually came to see him, just to see what would happen in the game. He brought a lot of intensity that they hadn’t seen here before.
Guard Danny Ainge: The excitement was high. I think that team had great experience and talent. The Kevin Johnson/Charles Barkley combo, Dan Majerle... I just think that that team had real high hopes entering the season.
KJ: From top to bottom of our roster we had a complete team. Charles obviously carried us, but we complimented him in so many ways.
All-Star forward Tom Chambers: I wasn’t disappointed at all about a reduced role. I felt like I could contribute at the center position, backing up Charles or backing up the small forward. I just wanted to help the team win. I had accomplished a lot of personal goals and I wanted to win a championship. I knew, like everybody else knew, that we would be a better team with Charles on the team.
Majerle: When they traded Hornacek, I was moved to the two-guard instead of playing the (small) forward position, so my job was to stand out there and space the floor for Charles, and when he demanded double-teams he’d kick it out to me and I’d shoot three-pointers. My game changed from being the guy who slashed and took it to the hole a lot to a guy who stood out on the perimeter and waited for double-teams, and then took the open shot and did what I had to do. I think everybody’s game adjusted to Charles, because he was such a force down low.
Barkley: It was a tough (adjustment) for everybody when I came to town. Dan (Majerle) and Tom (Chambers) opened their arms to me better than anybody.
Rookie forward Richard Dumas: I was happy to see Chuck because Chuck was my guy. I was like, “This will be cool for me, because I don’t have to worry about anything but getting him the ball and just learn to play off of him.”
Barkley: When I got there I kind of felt Arizona was looking for an identity. That's why I was totally shocked at the reception I got. They supported me, and if they support that guy, they kind of let people know that guy wasn't as bad as people made him out to be in Philly, and I let the world know that Arizona isn't such a bad place just because it didn't have a Martin Luther King holiday.
KJ: My confidence is at an all-time high. I may even turn my trash talking up with Charles back there. And it’s going to make Mark West and Tom Chambers and other guys a little more physical, a little more feisty, myself included. That’s going to make us a more physical team opposed to a strictly finesse team.
Head Coach Paul Westphal: If you’re not playing hard on [Barkley’s] team, you will be embarrassed.
June 24, 1992 – Suns draft Arkansas center Oliver Miller with the 22nd pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.
Westphal: If you look at Arkansas, they had two other players that were first-round draft picks and another who was a second-rounder. I wonder how many of those guys would have been picked where they were if they hadn’t played with Oliver? I think he made them all better.
Oliver Miller will either be a very good player for the Phoenix Suns, or he will never play for us.
July 3, 1992 – Suns sign free agent guard Danny Ainge from Portland.
Ainge: I think [Portland] took me for granted. They thought “He’s not going anywhere. He’ll stay here for less money.” As much as I tried to warn them, they wouldn’t believe me.
Westphal: [Ainge is] exactly what we hoped he’d be.
Oct. 18, 1992 – Barkley ejected from his first game as a Suns player, a preseason win over Boston in the debut of $89 million America West Arena.
Barkley: I think we’ve got a good team. What we need to do is get on the same page. We’ve all got to sacrifice ourselves. I like our team. It looks good on paper. Starting today we can see what is written on that paper.