A Draft lottery pick in 2015, Devin Booker has elevated himself from No. 13 overall pick to leading superstar for the Phoenix Suns.
Here’s a look at 10 things to know about Phoenix’s standout guard, his life and his NBA career.
Thanks, Pops: Booker’s father, Melvin Booker, played professionally from 1994-2008, including for two seasons and three different NBA teams (Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors). Only two photos of him exist in the league’s Getty/NBAE archives. One of them shows the elder Booker — then playing for the Golden State Warriors — driving against, you guessed it, the Phoenix Suns.
Post player first: Being tall for his age, Booker actually played significant minutes in the post as a kid before ultimately becoming a shooting guard. Even then, he still dedicated portions of his post-practice routine to footwork and shot-making on the block. It has paid off: Booker shot 52.5% and averaged 1.08 points per post-up possessions this season, making him the 10th most efficient player in the league with at least 50 such possessions.
Off the bench: Booker’s star status was built on a bench player’s foundation in college. The former Kentucky Wildcat didn’t start a single game and averaged just 21.5 minutes in his lone collegiate season. That didn’t stop him from shooting 41.1% from 3-point range in the Wildcats’ march to the Final Four.
Symbolic start: After being drafted 13th overall, Booker’s NBA debut took place in Phoenix on Oct. 28, 2015. That was the same night former Suns great and Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash saw his name and likeness enshrined in the franchise’s Ring of Honor at halftime. Phoenix didn’t do well in his honor, losing to Dallas 111-95, but Booker provided an intriguing silver lining. The then-18-year-old finished the game with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes. Four seasons later, Booker became the Suns’ first All-Star since Nash.
3-Point Contest: The league noticed Booker’s shooting stroke immediately and invited its youngest player to participate in the 2016 Three-Point Contest. The 19-year-old rookie acquitted himself well, reaching the final round before ultimately losing to Klay Thompson. Booker returned in 2018 and won the contest, besting Thompson with a record 28 points in the final round. This season was to mark his fifth appearance in the competition before ultimately pulling out due to injury.
Latin-American ambassador: Booker’s maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Nogales, Mexico, a fact Booker has grown to appreciate even more since being drafted by Phoenix. On multiple occasions he has referenced the culture’s strong family ties, something he has inherited and embraced in his own life.
“Some of my favorite times as a child was my mom whipping up her original Mexican dishes that she learned from her father, or when we got the chance to visit my grandpa on the weekends in his city and having him cook for us,” Booker told Suns.com. “I think the moment everybody found out that I had Mexican in my bloodline, I got on social media and started seeing younger kids of the Hispanic descent reaching out to me and saying, ‘You’re my favorite player. If you’re Mexican and you made it to the NBA, I can too,’ So, just trying to inspire in that type of way and keep representing the heritage. Let these kids know that, especially with the NBA today, it’s not one race. It’s not one culture.”
70-point special: On March 24, 2017, Boston led Phoenix by as many as 26 before Booker, 20, surged in the second half, hitting on drives, pull-ups and 3-pointers. The Suns cut the deficit to 10 before ultimately falling 130-120, but not before Booker became the youngest player in league history to hit the 70-point mark. He joined Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and Kobe Bryant as the only ones to score that many points in a single game.
“Be Legendary”: Booker admired many iconic shooting guards growing up, but Kobe Bryant’s game and competitive edge hold a special place in his esteem. Bryant noticed the young Booker as well, especially when he tried to use one of his own patented post moves against him in Bryant’s last career game at Phoenix in 2016. The Lakers legend laughed about that sequence in postgame comments to the media, but he shared a private moment with Booker himself. That meeting included a gift: a pair of signature shoes on which Bryant had written “Be legendary.” Booker has since gotten the phrase tattooed on his arm, and admitted his idol was very much on his mind when he scored 47 points in Game 6 to eliminate Bryant’s former team in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
Devin Booker got "Be Legendary" tatted on him. Kobe wrote the same message on the KOBE XI PEs he gave Book in 2016 💜💛
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 4, 2020
Peer approval: Booker’s arrival as a star may have been a foregone conclusion. When Booker was 20, Kevin Durant said on The Bill Simmons Podcast that he wanted the Thunder to draft Booker in 2015. When Booker was initially left off the 2020 All-Star roster, Damian Lillard voiced his hopes that Booker would take his spot when the Blazers star suffered an injury that would keep him out of the game. When the same thing happened in 2021, LeBron James, via social media, proclaimed Booker “the most disrespected player in our league.”
Playoff ready: Any questions about how Booker’s scoring would translate to the postseason were answered swiftly. After averaging at least 25 points over the last four seasons, he averaged 29.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 5.0 apg while shooting 48.8% overall and 42.9% from 3-point range in his playoff debut and Phoenix’s 4-2 series victory against the Lakers — the franchise’s first series win since 2010.