Phoenix Suns welcome health care workers to arena with big win

Feb 7, 2021, 3:55 PM
A Phoenix Suns fan stands and applauds during he second half of an NBA basketball game between the ...

A Phoenix Suns fan stands and applauds during he second half of an NBA basketball game between the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Phoenix. About 1,500 local health and emergency workers were in attendance marking the first Suns game of the season fans were allowed into the arena. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

It was more than just a win for the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. It was a win in front of the home fans.

The 100-91 victory over the Boston Celtics was the first home game since March 8 played in front of a crowd — specifically, a crowd of local health care workers who were honored with complimentary tickets.

And it was a welcome sight…and sound for Suns players.

“It was lit,” Deandre Ayton said after the game. “Time to put on a show. It’s just great to actually hear fans instead of the audio.”

Having health care workers cheering the team on made the win even more special.

“I woke up with them on my mind just knowing that they’re the first people who were going to be out here,” Ayton said. “They’re the real MVPs.

“Lord knows what they’ve seen and went through with their families. … All we can do is just say thank you from the bottom of our hearts and put a smile on their face and perform.”

Before the matchup began, forward Cam Johnson took to the court to deliver a special message of appreciation to all in attendance.

“Myself, my teammates, our staff, we recognize your incredible commitment and service at all times but especially over the past year through such unprecedented challenges,” he said.

“We couldn’t be here playing today without all of you,” Johnson added.

The Suns are limiting the crowd to 1,500 per game with Monday’s home game marking the first open to all fans. Head coach Monty Williams noted that it will be something for the team to get used to again.

“To come out there and see people in the stands and not cardboard imitations of people — it’s new for us,” Williams said. “And then to hear them cheering when we did introductions, that was new for our team. Because we’ve played in front of fans but it’s always against an opponent.

“To have our fans in our gym cheering for us was a really cool moment.”

The team’s decision meets the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control, the NBA and the Arizona Department of Health and Services. The organization has been working with numerous health experts to ensure a safe experience for fans.

Masks will be mandatory for fans on entry and at all times in the arena, outside of eating and drinking. Social distancing will be required, with markings across the arena for proper spacing at concessions, restrooms and more.

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