On May 23, 1975: The Phoenix Suns traded for Paul Westphal from the Boston Celtics.
On May 23, 1976: The Suns made their first Finals appearance with Westphal as their starting point guard.
On April 23, 1992: The Suns promoted Paul Westphal to Head Coach.
On June 9, 1993: Coach Westphal guided the Suns to their second Finals appearance.
Paul Westphal’s impact on the Phoenix Suns organization branched over three decades and was key in some of the most historic successes the team has ever seen throughout the last 51 years. He played significant roles in both of the Suns Finals appearances as the team’s starting point guard and leading scorer in 1976 and as a first-year Head Coach in 1993.
The Phoenix legend will officially be going down in history as he is inducted into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
“It’s really hard to put it into words,” Westphal said. “I’m very thankful to so many people that helped me along the way.”
While so many players dream of one day reaching the highest honor of being enshrined forever, Westphal never truly believed that this milestone would be possible for himself.
“I never really thought of it as a goal,” Westphal said. “I thought it was for people like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley. To have my name even bandied about there was really flattering and then to actually have it happen is pretty overwhelming.”
The 1974 NBA Champion, five-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA, two-time All-Star Game Head Coach and Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor member has the resumé to back up his induction as well his 40-plus-year impact on the NBA. Between playing, coaching and color commentating throughout his career, Westphal marks coaching overall as the most difficult duty, but noted that the team he had in Phoenix definitely helped.
“The hardest by far is coaching,” Westphal said. “It’s only difficult when you don’t have a good team. When you have some of the teams that you had here in Phoenix, like, ‘Oh, I get to go to work and do this and they’re paying me to? This is the best job ever.”
Westy's Perfect Play at Portland
Each player is asked to donate a few personal items to be displayed inside the Naismith Hall of Fame. Many players send a used jersey from the team they are most known for, but it was rare for teams to handout many jerseys to players back in the 1970’s. Westphal only has one of his personal Suns jersey and wasn’t wanting to part with it, but he still sent other special and historic items to highlight his enshrinement.
“I’ve got a pair of Suns shorts that I’m sending there and an All-Star jersey,” Westphal said. “There’s a really neat painting that a famous artist named Ernie Barnes did… He was commissioned to do a portrait of me making a layup in the crowd and it was kind of a neat one. We donated that.”
One of the most iconic items that Westphal sent them was a vintage 1981 Nike poster that featured the Suns guard titled “Goin’ Home.” Westphal joined Suns legend Alvan Adams in 1976 in becoming two of Nike’s first-ever sponsored athletes with shoe deals. In honor of his early commitment, Nike developed a promotional poster using one of their key stars in Westphal.
“When they started doing posters, I was one of the first people that got to do one,” Westphal said. “I’m in my sweats, some old playground and just walking off the court like shooting a ball up in the air to myself. A lot of people liked that poster and I think it made it into the Smithsonian as one of the first examples of posters being used to advertise shoes or anything in sports."
Westphal also donated his feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a championship watch from the Boston Celtics and an All-Star ring. Each item highlights different stops along his journey as well as shows his historic impact throughout the basketball industry as a whole.
The Suns legend has already been honored in Phoenix with “Paul Westphal #44” in the Ring of Honor, but now he will share hallowed ground in basketball’s history forever.
The 2019 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceromony Present by Nike in Springfield, MA will begin at 4:30 p.m (Arizona time) on Friday with the Class of 2019 Induction Celebration at Mohegan Sun at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.