Heartbreak Hotel: The Coin Flip

In the wake of the Suns' recent buzzer-beating losses, we're taking a "it's not that bad" approach. Suns.com's Matt Petersen looks at the worst one-shot heartbreaks Phoenix has suffered over the years, rating each of them based on five factors: stakes, opposition, helplessness, odds and what-the-heck. Check out the intro piece for a primer on how those factors are determined.

After reviewing some of the most heart-wrenching moments in Suns history, we're confident the last week won't feel nearly as painful.

The Shot

In New York, then-NBA cmmisioner J. Walter Kennedy flipped a 1964 Kennedy Half-dollar into the air with his right hand, caught it and turned it over onto the back of his left hand.

The coin showed tails. The Suns, at the urging of their fans, had called heads.


The winner of the coin flip (Milwaukee was Phoenix’s “opponent”) would win the rights to the No. 1 pick of the 1969 NBA Draft. It was a widely acknowledged fact that Lew Alcindor would be the player selected. He had averaged over 26 points and 15 rebounds while shooting nearly 64 percent during his college career at UCLA.

It was because of his unprecedented dominance that the NCAA had outlawed the dunk while he was in college. The NBA team lucky enough to draft him would be getting a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Rating: 10


The Bucks and Suns had only existed for one season before the coin flip took place. Sure, Phoenix badly wanted the right to select Alcindor, but there was hardly a sense of rivalry despite the franchise-altering potential at stake. Rating: 1


What do you do? One more or one less rotation, and Alcindor is donning purple and orange for at least the first few years of his career. Rating: 10


Quite literally, this was the ultimate toss-up. Feelings of hope or dread were entirely self-inflicted, as the odds were no more or less than 50-50. Rating: 5

What the Heck

The Suns likely felt this internally a lot more than their still-acquainting fans, but the magnitude of the coin flip has grown with time. Alcindor led the Bucks to a championship just two years later, than won five more with the Lakers in the 1980s. So dominant, was he, that it’s hard not to think Phoenix would have won a title had the infamous flip con their way. Rating: 8