VALLEY’S NO. 1 SUN MAKES STATEMENT EXTENSION

VALLEY’S NO. 1 SUN MAKES STATEMENT EXTENSION

Jay Dieffenbach
Jay Dieffenbach
July 8, 2022

The Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker doubled down on their commitment to each other, putting the final touches on a contract extension.

Booker, 25, earned one of the five coveted spots on the All-NBA first team this season, an honor that triggered the extension.

The three-time All-Star put up 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 2021-22, stepped up his defensive presence and helped lead the Suns to a 64-18 record – the No. 1 mark in the NBA.

The city can feel comfortable that No. 1 will remain a No. 1 option for years to come.

The state's No. 1 politician during Booker’s elite run echoed the sentiments of Suns fans everywhere.

“Devin Booker is a star both on and off the court,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said Tuesday. “Not only did he lead the Suns to the Finals, but he also donates to local nonprofits and plays an active role in our communities."

Booker Signing

A successful and prosperous pairing

The mutual respect between Booker and the Suns is far more than the usual platitudes exchanged by teams and their stars, and Booker has spoken eloquently about his relationship with the Suns – and with the city.

“Yeah, I mean that's a real love,” he said a year ago during the team’s Finals run. “That's a relationship that it's hard to explain with words. I tell people all the time, Phoenix is my third home. And they have embraced me that way since day one.”

Booker’s charitable efforts are well-chronicled, and his attention to his various causes are over and above that of your everyday superstar.

“He is integral to the success of the Suns and a great ambassador for the State of Arizona,” Ducey said.

Drafted after one year at Kentucky, No. 13 overall in 2015, Booker quickly showed the NBA family that the Suns had a special player.

It wasn’t easy, to be sure, with Booker catching plenty of criticism for the team’s struggles during Booker’s first four seasons (23 wins followed by 24, 21 and 19).

Through the tough times, though, Booker’s passion for Phoenix and his drive to find a way to win never wavered.

“I put my head down, I worked and I've been through a lot of bulls--- honestly,” he said. “But, just being who I am and seeing the bigger picture, having the tunnel vision you know, what this can be. …

“Even when we were at the bottom, (loyal fans) still showed up to games; love around the city's always been there. So, Phoenix is my city.”

National recognition is now a reality. The team’s run to the 2021 Finals opened the door for a much wider audience, and Booker has a growing global appeal. The evidence? He was just named the cover athlete for NBA 2K23.

This past season, Booker recorded career-bests in points per game (26.8), rebounds per game (5.0) and equaled his career-best mark from 3-point range (38.3 percent) while averaging a career high in steals and receiving votes for the All-Defensive Team

His continuing grasp on the importance of every possession improved, too, dropping his turnovers per game:

  • 4.1 in 2018-19

  • 3.8 in 2019-20

  • 3.1 in 2020-21

  • 2.4 this past season.

The 25-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Mich., by way of Moss Point, Miss., remains a master of the midrange jumper and is an emerging ace from long range. He was the NBA’s only player to average at least 2.5 field goals per game from each of the paint, the midrange and three-point distance last season.

Booker’s assault on the Suns’ franchise records continues. He has made more than 600 field goals in each of the past three seasons. Another 600+ would place Booker fourth -- in front of Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dick Van Arsdale and Kevin Johnson; trailing only Walter Davis, Alvan Adams and Shawn Marion – on the team’s all-time field goals-made list.

Booker’s 23.5 points per game career scoring average is second on the Suns’ franchise list, behind only Charlie Scott (24.8 ppg) and just in front of Charles Barkley (23.4). After hitting 183 3-pointers in 2021-22, Booker trails only Steve Nash (1,051 to 978) for the franchise lead in 3s made. And Booker lies just 4,449 points shy of Davis’ holy grail of Suns records as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer at 15,666 career points, which Booker would surpass in the 2024-25 season if he maintains his current pace.

Safe to say, fans will see “Devin Booker” at the top of several franchise leaders lists during this extension.

Booker NBA2k Cover art

The city’s need

The Suns have long been among the top 10 NBA teams in franchise winning percentage, so the years that followed the team’s 2010 playoff appearance – a grueling fan experience tantamount to the biblical wandering in the desert – served to make the Suns’ mercurial return to the top even more special.

The fans never left.

“I mean, this is something I always say: It's a basketball town,” Booker said. “This city loves the Phoenix Suns, and it comes with that rich history. People have generated memories that are going to last them a lifetime. I think that's the beauty of sport in whole. You can get behind something, rally behind it.”

The Starting Five

Booker is far more than just a passenger through his Valley-based NBA journey.

Commitment, discipline, integrity and leadership are the touchstones to Booker's initiative – announced in January 2019 -- called the "Devin Booker Starting Five," a Suns Charities outreach that benefits five local nonprofits.

And it’s no ordinary effort for a guy who had barely turned 22 years old at the time.

“As a leader, I feel it’s my duty and my responsibility to give back to the community I represent,” Booker said at that announcement before revealing a major commitment of his resources.

“I’ve happily donated $500,000 a year, for the next five years, to the Phoenix Suns Charities,” he said as the assembled audience reacted with surprise and appreciation.

The gesture led to Booker winning the NBA Cares Seasonlong Community Assist Award in 2020-21.

Booker, who serves as Special Olympics Global Ambassador, has markedly helped boost Phoenix Suns Charities, which was established in 1988, and continues to enhance the Phoenix metro community via nonprofits focusing on child and family services, among many other programs.

Booker Starting 5

Moving ahead

Can Booker continue to push the franchise forward and become the franchise’s No. 1 legend? Time will tell, but there is no doubting Booker’s perseverance and commitment.

And his fanatical drive to do it for Phoenix.

“This city has been wanting an NBA championship for a really long time and has been really close multiple times,” he said. “Just understanding that and understanding what's at stake, this city means a lot.”

Making this long-term commitment is just the latest in a series of actions that underscore the mutual loyalty.

Booker never really hinted at wanting to be anywhere but Phoenix – despite the pleading of national media for Booker to engage in spinning a new story.

He was, after all, a star player on a team desperate to find a winning path. But Booker eagerly signed his rookie extension, never allowing any fuel to stoke a “Booker wants out” narrative.

His extension has cemented his place in the Valley’s sports culture.

Today, it’s clear he and the Suns have made the right call.

Booker’s face on the Valley’s Mt. Rushmore now seems only a formality. His legacy – a trip to the NBA Finals with an open window for more right now – continues to grow.