Suns Retorter: Suns Are Best When No One Is Looking

The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns have made it cool to be a fan again.

Their fast paced, fun-and-gun style has caught the attention of national media members and ignited the imaginations of the hometown faithful faster than a five-year-old watching Sesame Street. (That is still a thing right?)

While the team’s on court play has made people happy to be Suns fans, there is something vastly different that should make them proud to be one. The legendary John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” There has been proof of that in Phoenix this year. (Well, with one slight caveat. At least one person was watching, yours truly, otherwise this would be the NBC comedy of columns, nondescript and boring.)

Take Goran Dragic for example. On Saturday after finishing his pregame shooting routine, the 6-3 Slovenian guard did something most players preparing for a game don’t even consider. He stopped and spent time talking to and signing autographs for fans who had gathered early at US Airways Center. What seemed to initially be a quick stop turned into a fifteen minute session. The best part is that not once did the smile on his face ever waver.

That smile grew even bigger when he stopped to talk to one of the smallest fans in attendance, a young girl who was no older than three. As he talked to her and her parents, his smile spanned more ground at US Airways Center than the guard usually covers in a game. It was a simple and sweet moment that most didn’t notice and those that did probably cared very little about. That is, except for the young fan and her family, for whom it will probably be a lifelong memory.

Making that extra effort is something the former second round pick takes pride in as he himself remembers being a fan.

“I remember when I was a kid and I went to the basketball games,” Dragic said. “I had big eyes when I’d see the basketball player and I was hoping he’d sign my shirt. It’s important because the fans support us. They’re here at the games cheering for us. We can give 100% on the court but it’s just as fun when you can interact with the fans.”

It’s not just lip service either. Five hours after stopping for fans before the game, Dragic was once again showing his appreciation for those that make his career dreams possible.

As the star guard walked out of the locker room he noticed a fan and his family standing along a wall in the corridor. Without hesitation he walked over to say hi, have a brief conversation and sign an autograph. It turned out the young man, named Nick, was a 14-year-old cancer patient from Phoenix Children’s Hospital who was lucky enough to attend the game that evening. Despite appearing to not feel well and having no hair due to treatments, the fan lit up the moment Dragic was in his field of vision. His facial expressions spoke volumes about his wonder and appreciation. Despite only lasting a few minutes, it was obvious the simple gesture would leave a lasting impact on both the player and the fan.

It’s not just Dragic who follows the lessons Haley Joel Osment taught us all in Pay It Forward. The entire team, front office and organization embraces the idea of giving back and creating once in a lifetime moments for the faithful who cheer for them with unabashed passion night in and night out.

Take the case of Kyle, a lifelong Suns fan from Chicago, who is suffering from debilitating congestive heart failure. Despite living in the Windy City his whole life, the home of the Chicago Bulls and the lore of No. 23, he always proudly sported his purple and orange. After 31 years, he finally got to attend his first game in Phoenix. He and his two brothers not only were in attendance for the December 23rd game against the Dallas Mavericks, but got to sit on the Suns’ bench during pregame warmups, received a tour of the locker room and had a chance to interact with alumni and the team before and after the game.

In an industry that is all about attention, sometimes it is the simple things that happen when the bright lights aren’t on and the cameras are turned off that tell the true story. The Suns record may be what draws in most fans but it’s what they do when the uniform is off and no one is watching that should make anyone proud to say they're a fan.

YOUR TURN: What makes you most proud to be a Suns fan?