Welcome to the Ring, Thunder!
By Joe Gilmartin, Suns.com
Posted: March 9, 2003
Thunder Dan Majerle, who turned draft day boos over his selection in 1988 into cheers that never stopped, was officially inducted into the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor in a moving, ovation-punctuated ceremony at halftime of the Suns-Timberwolves game Sunday night.
Fittingly enough, Majerle, who wore the No. 9 throughout his 14-year NBA career, became the ninth member of the Ring, joining Connie Hawkins, Dick Van Arsdale, Walter Davis, Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams and former trainer Joe Proski.
Although he is the franchise’s all-time leader in three-point field goals, much of the praise for him from almost every speaker stressed his defense, determination, hustle, unselfishness and citizenship.
“He was never about stats or ‘touches,’” said former teammate and current Suns coach Frank Johnson. “With him it was always about winning.”
And in one of the most significant moments of the evening Suns’ CEO Jerry Colangelo not only praised Majerle as “a guy who gave maximum effort,” but announced the inauguration of a yearly Dan Majerle Hustle Award, “to be awarded to the Phoenix Sun who most typifies your game in terms of effort.” Colangelo also said that a check for $9,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice would go with the award.
In presenting him with some autographed memorabilia from sports legends such as a Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and John Havlicek, former coach Cotton Fitzsimmons told him, “I wasn’t worried when people booed you, because I knew there was no way a guy with your determination could possibly fail.”
Fitzsimmons also joked that as a coach he felt much better about the Ring now that Majerle was up there.
“There are a lot of great scorers up there,” he told Dan, “and I felt we needed a role player who could play some defense. The way I figure it you could guard one third of Kevin’s man, one third of Tom’s man and your own man.”
And in officially setting the unveiling in motion, emcee Al McCoy, the team’s longtime “voice,” said, “It’s about time to add some Thunder to the Ring.”
Majerle, who appeared to be fighting back tears at times, called it an “unbelievable” night and thanked Colangelo and the Suns for giving him a chance to play in the NBA, and Cotton for having faith in him in the face of doubters. And he also thanked the fans for “treating me so great.”
In addition to five fellow Ring members (Hawkins, Van Arsdale, Davis, Adams and Chambers), former teammates on hand included Ricky Blanton, Rex Chapman, Ty Corbin, Vinny Del Negro, A.C. Green, Eddie Johnson, Tim Kempton, Joe Kleine and Mark West.
Kleine presented Majerle with a framed copy of the last jersey he wore for the Suns and the Phoenix Firefighters Association presented him with an official helmet from (what else?) Station No. 9.
But that was not all. Colangelo’s presentation also included a 1966 mint condition Cadillac El Dorado (Majerle is a car buff), and also announced arrangement for Thunder to play a round of golf with “a guy named Tiger Woods” (Majerle is a golf nut).
Colangelo, who received a giant bear hug after that announcement, closed with an open hand and an open invitation, “Like I said, the door’s always open for you. Let me know when you want to go to work.”
Majerle’s wife, Tina, and children (daughters Madison, McKenzie and Mia, and 7-month-old son Max), as well as his parents, Frank and Sally, and brother Jeff looked on, and heard him praised via video from Miami Heat Coach Pat Riley and KJ, who had prior commitments. There was also a video package highlighting some of the many great moments in Majerle’s career here, including his memorable dunk over Manute Bol in the 1989 playoffs, which drew louder cheers today than it did back then.
In addition to being the club’s all-time leader in three-point scoring, Majerle is also fifth in minutes played and shares the single-game three-point record of eight with Jason Kidd. But perhaps the thing that most typifies the kind of player he was is that he came into the league as a gritty inside player and defender, and moved outside to make room for Charles Barkley in 1992, and developed into of the game’s most dangerous outside clutch shooters.
McCoy pretty well summed the proceedings up when he said, “This was a great night for a great player and a great person.”