Once again, Suns’ Devin Booker will bring a special guest to the NBA Draft Lottery
CHANDLER, Ariz. – On the court, Devin Booker performs at an all-star level. Off the court, he’s building a hall of fame resume.
Once again, Booker made a young kid’s day.
On Friday, Booker surprised 11-year-old Noah Smith with an invitation to join him in representing the Phoenix Suns at the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery in New York City on Tuesday.
The invite was made at the conclusion of an NBA FIT assembly for students at Navarrete Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona.
“It’s going to be really special,” Booker said, referring to the trip back east. “The event is not just about the Phoenix Suns players, it’s not about myself, it’s just about the organization as a whole and that includes the fans and Noah and his family are really big fans of us.”
Only a handful of people knew about the surprise. Noah’s parents, Kevin and Karen, kept it a secret for about a week. Their oldest son, Brad, 23, will be joining Noah on the trip.
The group leaves on Monday, and they will spend three days and two nights in the Big Apple.
The list of activities, aside from attending the draft lottery, includes playing basketball at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a tour of One World Trade Center and a shopping spree at the NBA Store.
Noah, who had met Booker at a Suns game this season, was overwhelmed by the moment and ensuing attention.
“He’s just a little shy,” Kevin said. “I think when he gets to the arena on Monday morning and they start heading, I think he’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m really doing this’ kind of thing.”
This is the second time Booker has invited a Suns fan to be his special guest at the draft lottery. A year ago, Jenna Warren, who Booker had befriended as a rookie, was treated to the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“We developed a relationship that’s going to last forever,” Booker said of Jenna. “Hopefully, it’s the same thing with Noah. Hopefully him and his family enjoy their time. I know they’re big Suns fans, so at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
Noah, like Jenna, is a special needs student. He was born with a hole in his heart, which required surgery at the age of 2. He also underwent multiple procedures to rearrange his forehead plates before he turned 5 years old.
None of that, however, has diminished Noah’s love of sports or competition. He competes in Special Olympics and plays basketball, baseball as well as soccer and soon hopes to add swimming to the list.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade students at Navarrete Elementary erupted when Booker walked through the doors.
Two years into his NBA career, Booker, 20, remembers what it was like when he was one of those young kids.
“I always say the story, but Drew Neitzel. Many people probably don’t even know him now, but growing up I remember he spoke at one of my schools. I went to his camps and getting his autograph or getting to shake his hand was the biggest moment for me, so all that sticks in my head,” Booker said. “It’s hard sometimes you get caught up in the losses and winning games and everything like that, so you kind of lose that, but once you do events like this then you realize how important it is.”
Even in the offseason Booker is quick to say yes to an appearance.
The Valley is home now, and Booker has embraced the role of face of the franchise and all of what comes with it, especially off the court with the fans.
“These are the top supporters of us, supporters through thick-and-thin,” he said. “Since I’ve been here they’ve shown me the love that I never expected, so giving back like this, seeing the kids cheer, seeing them happy, it makes my day also.”