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Want to rekindle the Valley’s love affair with Suns? Hire Charles Barkley

John married Jessica in 1993. They were soul mates. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other and they couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Relationships change over time.

Twenty years and three kids later, John and Jessica are still married — but it’s different. John doesn’t exercise like he did in his younger years and has developed a beer belly. He’s become distant. Jessica doesn’t find John attractive anymore despite the fact that she’s packed on a few pounds herself. The passion is gone. Other than a peck on the cheek every morning to say goodbye as they go their separate ways, there’s very little in the area of intimacy.

They love each other, but they’re not in love with each other. But they’re in it for the long haul and they’re looking for something to spice up the relationship.

In 1993, the Valley was head over heels gaga in love with the Phoenix Suns. Fans couldn’t keep their hands off the team and they couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Every night, 19,023 crazies packed into America West for what was a two-hour love fest. Those who couldn’t get in packed sports bars just hoping to get a glimpse of the sexiest thing on hardwood. Fanatics painted their car windows purple and orange. City street corners and hotel ballrooms were populated by merchandise tents cashing in on Phoenix’s obsession with its basketball team.

Twenty years later, the passion is gone. The Suns aren’t sexy. The attraction has worn off. Suns fans love their team, but they’re not in love. But they’re in it for the long haul, and they’re waiting for something to spice up the relationship.

Unfortunately, the Phoenix Suns can’t schedule a couples counseling session, prepare a candlelit dinner for two or pick up a sexy teddy to try to start the process of putting the spark back in the relationship. No, the Suns will have to rely on what made them so irresistible all those years ago. The Suns need Charles Barkley.

While Barkley only played four years for the Suns, the team’s light has never shone brighter. With Sir Charles in town, the Suns enjoyed unbelievable success. In 1993, they were a John Paxson three-pointer away from hosting Game 7 of the NBA Finals. In 1994 and 1995, they fell short in two epic playoff battles with the Houston Rockets — who went on to win the title both years.

Lance Blanks was fired as the Suns’ general manager last week after three truly forgettable years that failed to produce even one postseason appearance. In a dark and depressing pro sports landscape in Phoenix, the Suns, once the darlings of the market, are an afterthought. They’re looking for a way to get sexy again.

Charles Barkley wants to be an NBA general manager. After fourteen years as an analyst for Turner Sports, he’s looking for a new challenge.

Barkley says a lot of things that have been dismissed over the years — remember his constant chatter about running for governor of Alabama?

But I believe him on this one. I believe Barkley does want to shoulder the challenge of running an NBA franchise, and what better place than Phoenix, a city he helped launch onto the NBA’s radar screen two decades ago. He doesn’t have GM experience, but does anybody want to doubt Barkley’s basketball experience?

In times of trouble, it is wise to look to the past and mimic what worked. Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby himself sees truth in this.

“Where I think we’ve lost our way a little bit, candidly, is I want to make sure we’re respectful of the past,” he said after Blanks was fired. “I want to make sure that we acknowledge the tremendous success this organization has had, be respectful of the people who have played here to the people who have coached here.”

In 1993, how many people thought it was wise for a good Suns team to trade three starters for a controversial, outspoken 6-foot-4 power forward who hadn’t sniffed the postseason in two years and was better known in Phoenix for spitting on a young girl and throwing a bar patron out of a plate glass window?

How’d that turn out?

Charles Barkley would be an incredibly risky general manager hire for Robert Sarver, Lon Babby and the Phoenix Suns.

But man, it would be the definition of a sexy hire. Immediately, the Suns become relevant locally all while accomplishing a goal of current upper management — acknowledging the success of the past.

Obviously, the goal is to achieve more than relevancy — it’s to win championships. That goal has not been met by the Phoenix Suns in their 45-year history. But Charles Barkley brought them closer than anyone else has.

Roll the dice.

I’m also happy to report that John and Jessica have been visiting a counselor on a regular basis. They’re communicating more clearly and are spending more quality time with each other.

They’ve never been more in love.

Rekindling the flame is possible.

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