THE 1992-93 SUNS SEASON IS SO RICH WITH
HISTORY that a Phoenix journalist wrote an entire
328-page book on it. There were more arrivals in downtown Phoenix
than at Sky Harbor Airport. America West Arena arrived and so did
new, colorful uniforms. It was the year which saw forward Charles Barkley,
shooting guard Danny Ainge and
new Head Coach Paul Westphal come to town. Then there was the
incredible regular season and an even more incredible playoff run.
A run which was unfortunately cut short by "The Shot." But we'll
get to that in a minute.
On June 17, 1992, the Suns traded Jeff Hornacek, Andrew
Lang and Tim Perry to Philadelphia for Sir Charles, the eventual
1993 NBA MVP. That season, the 25th in franchise history, Phoenix
also led the NBA with a franchise-record 62 wins. December was
perfect as the Suns tied the league's third-best mark for a month
with a 14-0 record.
The club led the NBA in scoring with 113.4 points per game and
also broke the league record for three-pointers made with 398. The
Suns won their second Pacific Division title and rolled into the
playoffs with homecourt advantage throughout. But, Westphal and his
team dropped the first two games of an opening series against the
L.A. Lakers, a team with a young Elden Campbell.
"The Lakers have too much tradition and pride to just lay down
for us," Barkley said before the series. "And they still have some
But James Worthy and Byron Scott couldn't lend enough leadership
in the end. The Suns staged an incredible turnaround and became the
first team in history to come back to win from an 0-2 deficit.
The Spurs, with super center David Robinson, posed a
different kind of threat in the next round, but the Suns protected
their home court advantage to make things easier. With the Suns up
3-2 heading to the Alamo, Barkley hit a 20-foot shot over the
Admiral with just 1.8 seconds remaining to give Phoenix a 102-100
Seattle and their young duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp battled the Suns
to the very end in the Western Conference Finals. The teams took
turns winning games throughout the entire series, with Barkley
becoming the deciding factor in Game 7. He finished with 44 points
and 24 rebounds in a 123-110 romp.
In the Finals against Chicago. Phoenix lost the first two games
at home, but won two of the next three in Chicago, including Game
3, a historic triple-overtime affair that saw Dan Majerle tie an NBA
Finals record with six three-pointers and KJ set an NBA Finals
record with 62 total minutes played. Down three games to two, the
Suns returned to the AWA and appeared poised to send the series to
a Game 7 in Phoenix. But suddenly, disastrously, amazingly, there
was Bulls guard John Paxson wide open beyond the arc with only a
few seconds to go and the Bulls down two. The Shot.
"The worst thing that could have happened at that time was a
three," says Frank Johnson, a reserve guard for the Suns that season. "If they would have hit a two, we would
have been all right, overtime. They didn't really want the
overtime, because they were fatigued. If you think about it, Michael (Jordan) wasn't
even involved in the play. The best player wasn't involved in the
Less than a week after the title hopes had been laid to rest,
some 300,000 Suns fans braved scorching heat (105 in the shade at
parade time) to jam downtown Phoenix for a joyous celebration of a
"To this day," says Suns president and CEO Jerry Colangelo,
"that's still one of the most moving moments in our history. It was
really amazing and showed just how much our team brought the
The Suns had other things to be proud of during the '92-93
season as well. Westphal became the winningest rookie coach in NBA
history and coached the West squad to victory at the All-Star Game.
On the court at the All-Star Game, Phoenix was represented by the
West's leading vote-getter, Barkley, and reserve Majerle. And
Colangelo was named NBA Executive of the Year for an unprecedented
fourth time for putting it all together. Certainly worthy of a
chapter all his own in this storybook of a season.