Aside from a few short months that I lived in Los Angeles after college, I have spent my entire life living in Arizona, and aside from four wonderful years at the University of Arizona, I have lived in Phoenix my whole life.
For me, following the Phoenix Suns has always been as easy as turning on the TV, flipping on the radio or opening that morning’s newspaper. When I first started following their 1993 playoff run, I couldn’t go two blocks without seeing a Suns sign, and they even passed out Suns picture cards every Friday at my Scottsdale elementary school.
It would have been surprising if I didn’t start rooting for the Suns as a kid, but that’s not how it is for many Suns fans around the world.
According to Google Analytics, I get readers from 94 countries/territories. Behind the US, I get the most traffic in order from Canada, the Philippines, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Singapore, New Zealand and then Japan.
So a week ago I asked these Suns fans from outside the States to write in and tell me how they became a fan, how they follow the Suns and how popular the Suns are in their respective countries. The following two-day package represents the highlights of their responses:
David Taylor, Australia
It’s hard being a Suns fan living 16 hours flying time from Phoenix. I always envy fans who live in the Phoenix area and can drop in for a game whenever they feel like it.
While the TV coverage of the NBA in Australia is better than it used to be, there’s still only about five NBA games a week shown live, so I would only get to watch the Suns about 5-10 times a year at most. The Internet is therefore the main way we get to catch up with the Suns. The audio and video podcasts the Suns put out are also a really important way to stay in touch and have access to regular interviews with Steve Kerr, Alvin Gentry and some of the players.
I’ve been a Suns fan for 20 years now and we’ve only been to the Finals once, so I’m hanging in there for the long haul so that it’s extra sweet when they finally do break through.
Elad Mashiah, Israel
It started back in junior high when we got just video clips from selected games and everybody became Michael Jordan and Bulls fans. I didn’t want to be like everybody so I searched for a nice attractive and competitive team to follow. The Suns were a perfect fit. They were fast, furious, enjoyable and they won quite a lot of games.
When I was released from the army my father took me to the CES show in Vegas and we made a stop in Phoenix to see my first game. Since then I returned to US Airways Center seven more times to watch my beloved Suns, for seven wins. I even managed to drag my wife to a game on our honeymoon.
Usually Suns’ home games start at 05:30 (a.m.) in Israel, so I wake up an hour earlier than usual. I don’t watch every Suns game, it’s too hard.
I know there are many more new Suns fans in Israel since the Nash era. I don’t know of a more experienced Suns fan than me in Israel.
Three months ago my first son was born. I promised him that me and him will dance at a championship game on the floor at the US Airways Center. I don’t mind the years of disappointments if I could experience a championship with my son, it will be worth it. He is the one that will liberate us, I can feel it in my bones.
Giannis Argyriou, Greece
I’ve been a HUGE Suns fan since 2005, and I live in Greece! The reason I started following the team was pretty random (a magazine here had an article on the NBA and I liked the Suns’ name), but now I’ve come to the point to consider myself one of the biggest fans of the team worldwide.
The Suns’ impact on my life is so big, that I’ve even abandoned my interest for European sports leagues (and my favourite Greek team), only focusing on USA’s pro sports. I spend most of my time on the Internet on the Suns (and the other teams in the Valley), I constantly wake up after midnight to watch a live game through those awful free streams on the web. I asked a friend who lives in Colorado to send me a Nash alternate jersey (I couldn’t find one here in Greece) and I’m even planning to visit Arizona on Christmas to watch a few games of the team (including the Cards and Coyotes)!
To conclude with, I feel proud and lucky to be following the Arizona teams, and I hope I will manage to make the trip to Phoenix, which will be a dream come true!
John Jerke, Canada
I grew up in northern BC and played AAA highschool ball at the same time that Nash did. He was easily the best player in the province at the time and all papers contained weekly stats for all games/tournaments and all of our team was watching for his line. We unfortunately missed the provincial tournament in 92 (due to regional rankings, we would’ve played Nash’s team in the first round and gotten whupped!!), however many of us there followed his game when he moved onto Santa Clara and then the league. Hate to make him out to be some huge hero or something – but it was really cool to see a guy who got no notice outta BC high school make the league, and I know him making it meant a lot to players in the province – realizing that maybe our game wasn’t quite that far behind our US neighbours to the south.
Justin Barber, Japan
I’m currently 16 and a junior in high school, residing in Japan. I’ve always been a huge fan of basketball, and in particular the NBA.
Besides Yuta Tabuse’s short stint with them, I don’t think the Suns are particularly popular here in Japan. Basketball in itself is not hugely popular over here (see: Baseball World Classic), but it does have kind of an underground following. However, Japanese always play fastbreak run’n’gun basketball, much like the suns.
Gareth Goh, China/Malaysia
Growing up in Shanghai, China and Malaysia as a Magic (and Penny Hardaway fan), I switched my allegiance with Penny when he was traded to the Suns, but as soon as he got to the Suns, I quickly began a flirtation and infatuation with another player, the pogo-stick Shawn Marion. Ever since then, player after player whom I have loved (fromto Amare to ) have come and I could not love the team more than anything else today.
Jeff Crockett, Mozambique/Israel
Trying to keep up with the Suns while living overseas is not easy and it can be very frustrating. I am fortunate enough to have access to AFN (Armed Forces Network) which shows all the Suns games televised on ESPN and TNT. That usually turns out to be around 20-25 games a year plus the playoff games. On top of that, I have a slingbox (an electronic box that lets you watch somebody’s TV in the US on your computer). Watching the Suns can be challenging while living overseas. Having been in Mozambique and now in Israel, that places me in a rough time zone to catch Suns games. It means I have to wake up at about 4 or 5 in the morning when the Suns play in Phoenix or on the West Coast. However, when they do their Eastern Conference swings I have to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning. When the Suns play well and are victorious, it makes for a great start to a day. The entire day seems to run nice and smooth. When they play poorly and lose, I always seem to be in a bad mood the rest of the day. Don’t even get me started on those Suns/Spurs series back in 2007 and 2008. Very frustrating times indeed!
Geoffrey Byrne, Australia
Like most of the world Australia experienced a surge of unseen popularity for the NBA in the mid 90′s, right around Jordan’s time in the league. I’m not sure what lead me to the Suns, but it probably had a lot to do with Barkley, I loved his game and loved watching him play. And through a fairly consistent period over the last 5 or 6 years it’s been thoroughly enjoyable to watch a team that at least had the chance to win every night they stepped on the floor. I guess that’s what keeps me interested and following them every day, I still believe they have a chance this year to win it all, but a lot has to fall in place. But I also love that the suns have a excellent club culture, and that’s probably the most important and under-rated thing in a sports franchise.
During the season I follow by listening to the game at work in my office live, over NBA.com’s radio broadcast. Then I’ll go home and watch the game over international league pass. ILP has its ups and downs, the downs being that at times the broadcast gets really glitch, and extremely hard to watch, the up being, sometimes its crystal clear and it’s great to get back home and watch a Suns game.