DAN BICKLEY

Kevin Durant’s home debut for Suns will reignite Valley

Mar 7, 2023, 4:46 PM

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns signs autographs before the game against the Chicago Bulls at ...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns signs autographs before the game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on March 03, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The sound inside Footprint Center is nothing special. It’s just noise.

It’s the feeling that matters. It’s the emotion behind the noise. And when Kevin Durant takes the court Wednesday for his first home game in Phoenix, the combination will be overwhelming.

It will sound like 55 years of hopes and prayers. It will feel like reignition for a region so dedicated to its NBA team that we once staged our own loser’s pep rally in the dead heat of summer. We are a basketball city eternally cursed by our own dreaded luck.

But not anymore.

That changes with Durant. And the joy of impending emancipation is what we will hear Wednesday at Footprint Center.

“It’s a very warm and welcoming city,” Durant said Tuesday at the team’s training facility. “People just want me to be as comfortable as possible, so I appreciate that.”

A powerful embrace awaits Durant on Wednesday. He is a jaded, sensitive superstar who spends too much time in the crosshairs, the crucible, and the cauldron of social media. He is the guy who couldn’t deliver for Oklahoma City and the superstar they didn’t need in Golden State.

That’s not the story in Phoenix, where we desperately need another hero, where significant legacy points await Durant if he turns out to be the ringbearer, the missing link, the driving thrust to a long-elusive championship.

Durant’s fiercest critics may never forgive him for joining the 73-win Warriors, one of the best teams in NBA history. They may never forgive him for what he failed to produce on his own, in Brooklyn, with a super team of his own making.

But we all remember how the previous postseason ended in Phoenix, don’t we? We all remember the embarrassment and the indignity and how we groaned in unison on live television. Few teams in history have been kicked to the curb harder than the 2022-23 Suns.

If Durant changes the calculus so dramatically that a title is soon forthcoming, his greatness needs no further testimony. If the Suns follow his lead to a championship, critiques of his leadership will soon be rendered asinine.

Our redemption as a basketball town is one of the few Cinderella stories left in professional sports. It’s the story of Jerry Colangelo, who helped build this city out of tumbleweed and desert hardpan. These days, Colangelo seems happy like a proud grandfather, like a man who finally found a successor (Mat Ishbia) worthy of the trophy he never hoisted.

It’s the story of broadcast legend Al McCoy, the grandfatherly voice of generations. Harry Caray never got to say, “Cubs Win!” at the end of a World Series. Let’s hope McCoy gets the ending he deserves.

In sum, the Suns are a story of perseverance and patience, of injustice and inequity, and all the good things that come to those who wait. We’ve waited a long time.

At his debut press rally not that long ago, Durant claimed he knew what a championship would mean to the city of Phoenix. On Wednesday, he’ll feel that energy and ambition behind all that noise, and he’ll know more about us than he’s ever known before.

Hopefully, it will mark the beginning of the end, the last leg of our hardscrabble journey, culminating in the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

Dan Bickley

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