ValleyBoyz: How Kelly Oubre has changed the Phoenix Suns’ culture

Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

A surprise addition last season for the Phoenix Suns, Kelly Oubre Jr. has unintentionally changed the culture of the fanbase – for the better.

Who would have thought that Trevor Ariza would have turned into a significant piece to the puzzle, that could set the Phoenix Suns apart from most other young teams.

It is apparent, especially after his re-signing, that Kelly Oubre really wants to be in Phoenix and be apart of the franchise going forward.

Aside from his play on the floor, he has and will continue to change the culture of what it means to be a Suns fan.

Kelly Oubre swept into the valley by storm when his twitter handle, @TsunamiPapi, began to make its way through the phones of most teen-aged Phoenix Suns fans.

While only starting in 12 games for the Suns, he made a significant impact on the floor, averaging around 17 points and 5 rebounds per game, career-high’s for a player who had only really showed up on the court in Washington beginning at the start of last season.

However, it was after a Suns win, a tweet and Instagram post, featuring Kelly Oubre, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Tyler Johnson, was released by Oubre with the caption, #ValleyBoyz.

What seemed to be an impulse post after a rare victory, soon gained a lot of traction.

After a week of some additional winning, the picture was the talk of the Valley, and Oubre began to embrace it.

I do not think that even Oubre saw that fan response and immediate fan fare from fans was coming.

The younger generation took to social media to express their love for the New Suns.

A team that won 19 games suddenly began to gain love from fans who teams need and want to have!

Devin Booker had held his own in this league, but never been around players who truly wanted to be in Phoenix.

Imagine what he must be thinking as he sees fans hopping on this “ValleyBoyz” bandwagon – now he really  can not leave as this makes him even more beloved around the city.

Rookie star, Deandre Ayton, was essentially drafted into a dumpster fire of a team, but wait, Oubre walks through the door and Ayton seems to be all in.

The season is over and one would think the fire would start to fizzle out?

The complete opposite seems to have occurred as Oubre, Ayton, and Booker, are going to concerts and clubs with each other and the friendship seems to becoming stronger by the day – not to mention that Booker is 22, Oubre is 23, and Ayton is 21, and for these guys to hang out with one other, is very important to the unity that they must develop if they’re ever going to compete in this league.

Obviously, this team goes as Booker goes, and eventually, it will be Booker and Ayton, but it feels like Oubre really is the catalyst to the Phoenix Suns team.

Maybe he is not a 20 points per game guy, but he is so much more for a team that is desperate to have fun, even if they aren’t winning 50+ games a season yet.

Oubre is a brand himself. He is the original ValleyBoy. To find a player that believes and wants to be a part of a team that has not made the playoffs in nine years, and is willing to grow with his “Boyz” is exciting.

Suns fans are salivating as the start of the new season so they can see the first year of the real “ValleyBoyz”.

When he finally signed his new contract, the man showed up to his press conference in only a look that Oubre could pull of and no fan would criticize.

Along with making that splash, he talked about what being a “ValleyBoy” means, he said, “ValleyBoyz is not just a team, it’s all of you who support us every single day. It’s a family.”

Oubre has now set the culture and given it definition.

Every year Suns fans get excited to see their team play and see the growth and progress, unfortunately, for many of the previous years that excitement has been thrown out the window very quickly.

Those same fans are not only excited for the “ValleyBoyz” to take the court this year, but seem almost more excited to buy the “ValleyBoyz” merchandise, which in itself is crazy – all of which is a credit to Oubre.

However, this is evidence of how the culture has flipped on its back, from having absolutely zero hype and love from surface level fans, to this new hype and love for not a team, but a brand and culture.

It really is hard to explain what Oubre has done to the millennial fans of the Phoenix Suns because I am one. He has given me a newfound life in my fandom of a franchise that has struggled for the majority of my life.

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In a span of four months, a 23-year-old that was once Trevor Ariza completely transformed a dysfunctional team with no identity (and surely no culture), into a team with a purpose and a culture of change.

That man is informally known as TsunamiPapi, and he is here to create waves for the fans of the Phoenix Suns to ride.