Your Suns Story: Steve Benko

Courtesy of Steve Benko

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As lifelong Suns fan, Steve Benko, can attest to, being born in Arizona during the early ‘90s directly correlates with Phoenix Suns fandom.

Those years continue to hold a profound place in the collective hearts of Suns fans around the globe – almost as if that period of time is naturally engrained into their being.

Benko first started following the Suns when he was just five-years-old. At that time, YouTube and other similar resources didn’t exist. Thus, finding highlights of his favorite players usually came from watching the Suns on television – and he never missed a game.

“The first person I remember getting drafted by the Suns was Shawn Marion,” said Benko. “I didn’t follow much college basketball yet, so I had to go by what I saw on television. After Marion’s rookie season is when he really grew to be one of my favorite players.”

During the late ‘90s, Benko’s father worked in a tire and service department for a car dealership in Phoenix. He would often tell Steve how professional athletes would come in from time to time in search of a vehicle or for general car maintenance.

Steve’s father always kept an unsigned basketball at his desk in case the opportunity to get an autograph for his son presented itself.

As fate would have it, one such opportunity did.

“I remember coming home from school and my dad handed me an autographed basketball from Shawn Marion that said ‘To Steve’ and had his funky signature on it,” reminisced Benko. “He told me that Shawn Marion came in to get some work done on his car. My dad ended up doing the work. Afterwards, he asked Marion if he would sign a basketball for me. He was happy to sign it, and I've had that ball for almost 13 years.

“It is still one of my most prized possessions. It's a cool story to tell fellow Suns fans.”

But as impactful as that moment was for Benko, his connection with the team helped him get through some painful times in his life. At a young age, he faced the difficulty of moving several times, dealing with his parents’ divorce and even being bullied in school.

The one thing he could always rely on to alleviate stress and anxiety was to turn on a Suns game (or play as the team in a video game).

“The Suns always make me feel better,” added Benko. “I used to get picked on at school and those were the times I’d feel down on myself and my self-esteem would be the lowest. It took a toll on me. But watching the Suns gave me a feeling of relief.

“It still does today.”