I was born and raised in Phoenix and grew up as a little kid at the Madhouse on McDowell and then America West Arena/U.S. Airways Center as a kid. I was in the building as a fan when Shaq as a member of the Magic brought the hoops down and the long delay from the game that ensued. I was present when Rex Chapman hit that improbable prayer from deep to send a playoff game into overtime against the Seattle Sonics (a game they would eventually lose) and also in the building when Raja Bell hit the crazy three from the corner in the wild playoff series against the Clippers (a game they would eventually win). Those just a few of the great moments I experienced as a fan in the stands that make up some of my favorite memories.
Like most people who are born and raised in Phoenix, there is not a long standing tradition surrounding the professional sports franchises in town except for when you talk about the Suns. Which is why I believe, despite the notion from others in the media, the Suns have been and will continue to be the darling and most cared about team in town at the end of the day.
If you are like me and have been a Suns fan though the highs and lows that comes with the territory, you have an affinity for one of the best players to represent the team, Kevin Johnson. For me personally, KJ was who I wanted to be when I was a kid. I wore his Converse shoes when he got his shoe deal, I always practiced the “KJ drill” which was repeatedly dribbling the ball between your legs over and over. I wasn’t able to rep the number seven in youth leagues as much as I would have liked because back then, the smallest jerseys started at number one and worked their way up. Being one of the smaller guys on the team every year, seven was just a little to big of a jersey for me. I loved watching him play and now being a parent, I am sure my parents and other parents around the valley at the time couldn’t think of a better athlete to look up to from how he carried himself both on and off the floor.
This past off-season, the Eric Bledsoe contract situation to put lightly, didn’t seem pleasant. Though Bledsoe himself said when it was all over that he always wanted to be here and the Suns front office said they had no intention of allowing him to leave, the perception of the comments, rumors and statements that whichever party leaked into the media for updates on this situation made it seem like Bledsoe deep down just really did not want to be in Phoenix. Whether it was really the case, we will never know. Bledsoe is a very quiet person which is something I have seen personally in my dealings with him as well as his dealings with the media in general over the last year or so. From that, it is really hard to tell how he actually feels deep down.
After signing the long term deal with the Suns, many people I know personally who are life-long Suns fans were conflicted to whether or not they were turned off by him and the things that took place this off-season or if they were just happy it was over and were glad to have him back.
I will tell you right now, what Bledsoe did on Thursday morning may have put all of that uncertainty to bed. Yes one tiny, little gesture of him posting an Instagram of him guarding KJ while in his prime and both of them in a Suns uniform is an image that Suns fans will take away as Bledsoe understanding the deep tradition of the Suns and how much this team means to this town. KJ was beloved by everyone and still is to this day, and Bledsoe showing his “#Respect” to one of the all-time greats to put on the uniform runs deep to those who have had so much passion for this team for so many years.
At the end of the day, it’s just a post on social media. But in my eyes, that is one of the biggest actions that Bledsoe has made in showing what it means to him to be a Sun. Actions always speak louder than words. It was one thing for Bledsoe to say on media day last month that he always wanted to be in Phoenix, it is another to do something like this.
Whether it was on accident or just a smart PR move, it worked. And good for him for doing so.