For a lost Phoenix Suns season, rookie Devin Booker’s appearance in the Three-Point Contest and late addition to the Rising Stars Challenge at the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend should give something for Suns fans to cheer about.
It won’t be easy on the youngest player to ever take part in the three-point event. He’ll be squaring off with defending champion and likely MVP Stephen Curry, former ASU star James Harden and sharpshooters Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick and Chris Bosh.
But if Booker puts on a show there or with the United States team in the Rising Stars event, he’ll join this short-list of memorable All-Star moments involving Phoenix players.
The best, ‘first’ dunk champ
When the Dunk Contest became a part of NBA All-Star weekend in 1984 — the first official dunk contest since a 1976 event for the ABA — the Suns’ Larry Nance was first to take home the crown.
Nance started off with a cradling reverse dunk along the baseline and played it safe in two more first-round dunks before a thunderous, off-the-backboard dunk in the second round earned him a near-perfect 49. A double slam with a ball in each hand followed and propelled him to the finals. There, he put one of the best dunkers of all-time, Julius Erving, away with a side windmill in the final round.
Most creative dunk
Amare Stoudemire brought back memories of former Suns big man Nance as a big-man dunker. Part of the the 2004-05 squad’s representation in the All-Star game, Stoudemire didn’t win but his opening double-clutch slam was followed by an off-the-glass, head-assisted pass from point guard Steve Nash.
Best-made for the three-point contest
Suns teammates Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson found themselves in the 3-point contest in 2005. While Johnson was forced to take the “jump” out of his successful jump shot in order to complete the event before the shot-clock buzzed, Richardson’s quick trigger proved perfect for the format. He hit the last nine shots to take the title that year.
The commentary from the TNT crew of former Suns star Charles Barkley and future general manager Steve Kerr added to the nostalgia (Barkley’s opinion of his old franchise sure has changed over the past decade).
Maybe he could see through the blindfold.
Nonetheless, the Dunk Contest is about showmanship, and the Suns’ Cedric Ceballos got the crowd involved with this blind 1992 slam dunk that won him the contest. The dunk has gone down as one of the most memorable in the event’s history.
You might forget that Shaquille O’Neal was a 2009 All-Star for the Suns, in part thanks to the now-archaic voting system that forced centers onto rosters ahead of sometimes more deserving and more talented forwards.
Yet, the “Big Cactus” took home co-MVP honors in the game held in Phoenix along with former teammate Kobe Bryant. While his extended ball-handling during the game was fun enough, Shaq stole the show before it even began when he was introduced along with the dance group Jabbawockeez.
The best part of history — in a bad way
This wasn’t even the first time Suns forward Shawn Marion found himself on the bad end of a Michael Jordan buzzer-beater, but it sure was a memorable one.
Jordan’s final All-Star appearance in 2003 ended with a fadeaway jumper in overtime — once again over the Suns’ All-Star.
It’s not a good memory, but a historic one.