Supernova Series: The single game of the ages

With the unveiling of new Phoenix Suns uniforms came memories of the past. There have been big names involving franchise cornerstones Steve Nash and Charles Barkley, but role players like Bo Outlaw – remember that triple-double – have had their moments as well. In a mini-series we’ll call the Supernova Series, the Valley of the Suns staff will share their favorite memories of the Phoenix Suns. But first, what is a supernova?

supernova – a star that explodes catastrophically owing to either instabilities following the exhaustion of its nuclear fuel or gravitational collapse following the accretion of matter from an orbiting companion star, becoming for a few days up to one hundred million times brighter than the sun.

THE PEAK of the Stephon Marbury’s success came just months before the Steve Nash era hit the Valley, and it was a reminder of how quickly the tides change in the NBA. The Suns slipped into the playoffs in 2013 Milwaukee Bucks-like fashion and found themselves opening the postseason against a 60-win Spurs team. Oddly enough, the matchup had given the Suns the regular season advantage so not too surprisingly, Phoenix would prove that it wasn’t going to roll over in Game 1.

This was Amare Stoudemire’s rookie year, Joe Johnson’s second, and the prime of Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion. San Antonio was led by none other than Tim Duncan but also had second-year point guard Tony Parker, who during the regular season had been abused by Marbury to the tune of 32.5 points per game. Parker, meanwhile, had only mustered 29 percent shooting against the Suns point guard.

Forget that this was Game 1 of the first round. The gritty, then-defensive-minded Suns under head coach Frank Johnson would make one of the most memorable Suns games in the last 20 years as an eighth seed in the opening game of the first-round playoff series.

Down 87-84 with 15 seconds left and needing to go the length of the floor, Stoudemire set a screen for Marbury at halfcourt. Instead of rolling through the paint, the rookie forward drifted to the top of the three-point arc, where Marbury hit him with a pass. Fluidly, Stoudemire, who had hit 2-of-10 three-pointers all year long, stepped into a shot and banked it off the glass for a tie that would force overtime.

The miracle bank-shot would soon be overshadowed, and the game would soon become an outlier in regards to how the luck of the Suns often went against the Spurs over the next six postseasons. With five seconds left in the overtime and Phoenix playing the foul game down by two points, Duncan bricked a second free throw off the back of the rim and Marbury took it the distance before tossing a running three-pointer off the glass for a one-point, 96-95 victory.

Marbury in the last week has been named by Mike Bibby and Kobe Bryant as one of the toughest players in the league, and it was certainly a valid argument then. But after the Suns lost to the Spurs in six games in 2003, the roster would quickly hit rebuilding mode — and Nash was quickly scooped up in free agency.

That 2002-03 Suns roster goes to show how fragile a player’s place in the NBA can be from year to year. Arguably, that was the height of Marbury’s career – he never had much success in the postseason – and he’d soon be more well-known for filming personal videos involving vaseline. The 2002-003 squad also pinpointed the rise of Stoudemire, Johnson and Tony Parker, and the fading legacies of Penny Hardaway and Tom Gugliotta. Then, it was hard to see Hardaway and Gugliotta as All-Star level players. Now, it’s hard to have imagined that Stoudemire and Johnson would have the third- and fourth-highest NBA salaries in 2012-13 despite already finding themselves on the downturn.

But that game? That was a heck of a memory.

What’s your favorite Phoenix Suns memory?

  • hawki

    I’ve been around since Day 1….so I have a lot of Suns memories.
    The whole 92-93 season…the Valley was really on fire for that team….you could feel it in the air….Sir Charles was everything we could have hoped for…if it wasn’t for Ceballos injuring his elbow, I believe the Suns would have won the Title….arguably the Greatest team never to win an NBA Championship.

    Oldest memory….playing the Bucks…1970-71 season…they had Jabbar, Oscar, Dandridge et al. …
    tight game….almost impossible to beat that team…
    Jon McGlocklin puts up a jumper from the top of the key….suddenly flying out from under the basket comes Connie Hawkins….he blocks the shot…the ball goes all the way out to half-court…..Hawkins, his momentum carrying forward, snatches the ball out of the air with one hand…..the crowd rises as one & begins to roar….it knows what’s coming….The Hawk dribbles twice before taking off in flight somewhere around the free-throw line….he hammers home a tomahawk dunk as the crowd erupts in apoplectic frenzy….the Suns end up beating the hated, invincible Bucks……ah yes.

    Connie Hawkins may not have been the greatest player in Suns history, but no one….and I mean NO ONE, could turn on the crowd like “The Hawk”.

    ps…my “web name” hawki…has nothing to do with Connie Hawkins.

  • Scott

    I liked Marbury that year, for abusing opposing PGs, and I liked that game against the Spurs described above. However, I was uneasy with keeping Marbury, and I certainly wouldn’t have signed him to a max contract like Colangelo did. The Suns were lucky to have been able to unload him on the Knicks.

    Which reminds me … if McD turns out like I hope he does, he might be the first real good GM the Suns have had, or at least that they’ve had within the last 20 years.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    On a different note:
    Gortat played with the Polish national team vs Belgium yesterday. Stats line in 20 minutes: 20 points, 9/12 FG and 5 rebounds. And he arrived in Europe 3 hours before the game started. I don’t think his health is going to be an issue.
    And Dragic looks pretty sharp as well! I can’t wait to see them at the EURO tournament. Are you going to write about those games (at least those with Gortat and Dragic) here on VotS?

  • Scott

    ^^ Didn’t Gortat have only 5 rebounds and a whopping 4 turnovers? Not to rain on his parade, as I recognize his scoring was good, but the rebound number seems low and the TOs seem high.

    I think the play in Poland will be good for him, helping him get back into basketball shape after several months of rest and rehab.

  • BCrayZ

    That was a heck of a game.

    I clearly remember that winning bank shot.

    One of my fave memories came in the 2008 playoffs – game #4. Suns fell into a 3-0 hole. This began with a sure game #1 win, after losing the series the year before to those same Spurs, after Horry’s cheap shot. Just as sure as that game #1 win was leading by 3, with only time for one more Spurs shot, Dumb Antoni failed the team. Had he used the time out properly, he would have demanded that no one gets an open look at a game tying 3, not even “Tiny” Tim, who drained that wide open shot. That poor coaching demoralized our team and led to his dismissal by Kerr. When game #4 began at home, my son Jacob & I saw swarms of broom-carrying Spurs fans attending the game here. When Mike No D. was ejected, instead of our fans booing the refs call, the crowd was so elated to give Mike a parting shot at what would be his last home game as coach of the Suns, that we all erupted in a wild frenzy that energized our team. Suns ended up blowing out the Spurs in that game. No sweep for Spurs fans. Next time we met the Spurs in the playoffs came 2 years later, when, after losing to the Spurs in the playoffs year after year, we did to them what they were never able to accomplish against us, a series sweep, four games to zero. Nash finished with just one eye, being uplifted by the energy & success of “that killer bench unit.”

    MUST reunite “that killer bench unit.” Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • john


    “Connie Hawkins may not have been the greatest player in Suns history…”

    I might beg to differ. Arguments could reasonably be made for Charles, KJ, Nash, and Amar’e as far as their time with the Suns is concerned. But the Hawk had the prime of his career ripped away from him, and there are plenty of his contemporaries that acknowledge the Hawk is one of the all-time greats.

    I would probably go with Sir Charles in that debate, but I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if anyone tried to argue any of the guys on the list above.