Suns Retorter: Suns-Pacers Includes Unique Matchup

During every child’s formative years there is an individual, or many, they look up to. Sometimes it’s a parent. Other times, it’s a teacher or another family member. These are people who a young person wants to be like, admires, or is starstruck by when watching.

If said child is a sports fan, the list is probably littered with numerous athletes who they spend hours upon hours of their time watching and emulating.

If you grew up in Phoenix in the 80s or 90s as a Suns fan, some of those names likely include Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Jeff Hornacek or Walter Davis to name a few. If you were a kid growing up in Boston during that same time period your list probably included the name of one Larry Joe Bird. (Don’t believe me? Feel free to read anything Bill Simmons has ever written about the game of basketball as a prime example.)

The “Hick from French Lick” as he was belovedly known, was an 80s and early 90s icon in Beantown the way Michael Jackson, big hair and leg warmers were around the country and his green No. 33 was a fixture around the state of Massachusetts.

One of those who was caught up in the excitement was a young Ryan McDonough.

“For my tenth birthday I got a Larry Bird autographed basketball,” McDonough reminisced. “It was one of the highlights of the birthday.”

If you told that young man if you fast forwarded his life roughly two decades from that point he’d be indirectly going head-to-head with Bird, who is now the President of the Indiana Pacers, on the basketball court he’d probably wouldn’t have believed you.

While neither McDonough or Bird will suit up on Wednesday night at US Airways Center at 8:30 p.m., teams the two had a major hand in building will take the court as the Eastern Conference leading Pacers visit the Suns.

“It’s neat to be competing against him,” McDonough said. “Not directly, but our teams are competing against each other. To have him doing such a good job running the Pacers. It’s been fun to interact with him on a professional level.”

For many of us, going up against a childhood idol in any way, shape or form would be a bit surreal. For McDonough, he is too focused on the task at hand, building a Suns team the Valley can be proud of, that he hasn’t had time to think that way.

“I guess it is a little bit surreal,” the first-year General Manager said. “I’ve never really thought about that. You can make a case that Larry and his entire staff have done as good a job as anyone so far at putting a team together.”

On Wednesday in front of a national audience, the surprising upstart team McDonough and his staff has assembled together will take on the team that is dominating the standings that Bird and his group built, just don’t expect any childhood feelings to get in the way.

“I root for him whenever we’re not playing against them,” McDonough said with a smile.