by Gina Mizell

Headline

NEW HARDWOOD
The Valley court, a companion to the Suns' Nike City Edition jersey, is another way to tell the rich story of the team, their fans and their home.

The Suns’ Nike City Edition uniform reveal featured an array of flashy elements, including players pulling up in luxury cars, an intimidating scorpion in its desert habitat and the Gorilla waving a giant flag atop South Mountain. 

Yet The Valley launch video also teased a surprise companion to the jersey, when a pair of Nike shoes walked across a center-court logo with the same lettering and mantra as the uniform’s top. 

The Valley court debuted for the Suns’ Dec. 29 dominant win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and will be used every time they wear the black alternate jerseys inside their transformed home arena. It is another way to tell The Valley’s story rooted in passion, swag and pride for where the Suns and their fans call home. 

“The Valley is special, and this just adds one other brand extension for us,” said Brooke Campbell, the Suns’ VP of Marketing & Brand Strategy. “It’s not just about the jersey. ‘We are The Valley’ is a movement.” 

This is the first time the Suns have utilized a full alternate court, which the NBA allows with approval to complement each team’s range of jersey colors and styles. 

The Valley court, designed by Suns Director of Creative Chris Grasha, features stark black paint used for the center logo, the restricted area at each end of the floor, the 3-point arcs and other markings. Yellow trim pops from the lane and out-of-bounds lines. “Phoenix Suns,” along with the iconic sunburst logo, stretches along the baselines. A pixilated sky gradient, representing Arizona’s stunning sunrises and sunsets, runs down both sidelines. 

And because Grasha, Campbell and their teams did not want to simply replicate the jersey on the court, they added a rocky desert landscape and saguaro cactus under the center logo. The floor’s overall light stain creates a crisp, polished and bright look on television and in person, especially under the arena’s new theater lighting. 

“The court (is) unreal, man,” starting forward Mikal Bridges said after its debut game. “You just go out there, especially with the new arena, it just pops. it was pretty dope.”  

The first approvals for The Valley court arrived in January, and, as jersey concepts crystalized, Grasha also began working on court designs. He estimates he mocked up between 30 and 50 versions with subtle differences, such as using Camelback Mountain instead of a cactus and putting the sky gradient in the key instead of along the sideline. 

“The most fun part was it was an empty canvas,” Grasha said. “We had a concept in mind and we had sort of a loose look and feel of where we wanted to go, obviously, to reflect the jersey. But we had that ability to think creatively about how we want to represent The Valley and what represents The Valley best.”  

Designs were submitted around March, with painted wood samples arriving over the following two months. 

Perfecting the pixilated portion of the court was “a massive project in and of itself,” Campbell said. She, Grasha and Brian Polokoff, Phoenix Suns Arena’s Director of Facilities Operations, spent about two hours in a conference room one day laying out, piecing together and moving around those sample pieces — some with the slightest difference in shade of purple, pink, yellow or orange — until reaching a “Eureka! moment,” Grasha described, when they all synched up perfectly. 

“I had a lot of fun with this one, because I felt like we actually had some input,” Polokoff said. 

Last season’s Suns players also provided input, when Campbell presented them with three options for a vote. It was important to managing partner Robert Sarver and general manager James Jones that players were comfortable with the design, which is why a version of the court is also inside the new Verizon 5G Performance Center. This allows players to become familiar with the court’s markings without needing to look down, which was not possible on the previous practice court in the basement of Phoenix Suns Arena. 

Monday morning, Polokoff’s team began the six-hour process of laying the court’s 230 pieces onto the arena bowl’s floor. TNT showcased the finished product to a national-xtelevision audience as the Suns blasted the Pelicans 111-86. The Suns continued to use the new hardwood deep into the night, when Langston Galloway and Jevon Carter spent about 30 minutes putting up extra shots and Frank Kaminsky sprinted up and down the length of the floor after the big win. 

And all season long, The Valley court, along with its jersey companion, will tell the rich story of the Suns, their fans and their home. 

“It turned out exactly as we had hoped,” Grasha said. “It’s such a unique opportunity we’ve had. We haven’t had a jersey in the past that was so representative of Phoenix and where this team is going and where this city is going. 

“Now, to actually have a court representing that, as well, it’s just really cool and shows the dedication and what this team means to this city.”   

Note: The Suns began the 2020-21 season without fans in attendance at home games at Phoenix Suns Arena. For more information, click here

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