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Alithea David, Housekeeping Supervisor for the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Footprint Center, understands the significance of her community being represented on a platform like the NBA.

“Being Native American and being represented, it means a lot, because nobody has ever done it before in areas like the NBA or any other sports league. I love working for an inclusive organization that celebrates Native Americans.”

The Suns recently launched their 2022-2023 City Edition uniform, which honors Arizona’s 22 federally recognized indigenous tribes with its symbolic turquoise color and thoughtful design details. The jersey pays tribute to the rich histories and cultures of the state’s Tribal Nations and celebrates their shared love of basketball. 

Alithea is from the Hopi Tribe – a tribe of about 20,000 people – in Northeastern Arizona, where she is part of the Len Wungwa-Flute Clan from the Village of Walpi.

The youngest of three siblings and a mother to six wonderful children, Alithea grew up on the Hopi reservation until she graduated from high school and moved to Phoenix to begin her career in housekeeping. Starting at a temp service where she worked for various sports arenas, including Footprint Center and Chase Field, Alithea’s tireless work ethic and attention to detail helped her land the supervisor role with Suns Legacy Partners, where she has excelled for the past seven years.

While Alithea never played basketball herself, she enjoyed gathering with her tribe and watching local rezball.

“Basketball for the 22 tribes in Arizona means a lot. All of the family members gather together and make sure we attend all of the children’s games.”

She emphasized that while each tribe is incredibly unique, basketball has always been a shared cornerstone that ties each community together.

“Each of the 22 tribes has a different culture, they have a different language and different traditions, but they all come together as one when it comes to basketball. That’s one thing that the Suns are bringing together – all the 22 tribes to be able to celebrate.”

Alithea appreciates how the Suns’ new City Edition uniform not only celebrates the Native American community as a whole but showcases each of the tribes individually.

A new logo inspired by the Native American medicine wheel, depicted on the waistband of the shorts, features 22 feathers with 22 arrowheads lining the bottom of the shorts, representing each of the state’s Tribal Nations. The black tape running down the jersey top and shorts features the word for ‘sun’ in each of the tribes’ unique native languages.

It is this last feature that Alithea is most excited about.

“It has our Hopi word on there, meaning ‘Sun’, which is ‘tawa.’ The Sun is regarded as our father. Every morning we pray to him so that everyone has a good day.”

She explained how her Hopi tribe also uses the sun as a calendar to know when to plant crops and perform certain ceremonies.  

Details matter, representation matters, and Alithea is thrilled that Native American tribes will witness a celebration of their diversity and shared love of basketball on the NBA stage this season.

Her message to the younger generation of Native Americans?

“The children of the Native community are our pride and joy. As they plan and work towards their future, whether it be in the NBA or another profession, I hope and pray they do not give up on their plans. There will be roadblocks and setbacks along the way, but if they do their best and stay Native strong, we as a family will support them.”