Entering his fifth year in the league, Devin Booker has found himself the leader of a struggling Phoenix Suns franchise. But with his All-Star selection, he may be ready to come back and truly lead.
It was clear that the franchise believed in his talent as Robert Sarver signed him to a five-year, $158 million contract extension. But could he put a city on his back? Could he create a winning culture? Could he be a leader?
Simply because you make the most money on the team doesn’t mean you are the “leader”. It means you are the most talented from a basketball standpoint.
Booker has struggled with on-the-court leadership, often times displaying frustration with his teammates’ defensive positioning, spitefully fouling opponents following perceived missed calls, and receiving technical fouls whilst sitting in street clothes against the Spurs (I can’t let that game go…’The Great Mexico City Debacle’ on December 14, 2019).
Booker yearns to be the leader of this team and this franchise, and fans want him to succeed in that role.
After all, Booker is ours. He has struggled with us and yet stayed. He has lost game after game, season after season, and yet wants to help this franchise grow.
He is one of us.
What the young player needs is an opportunity to grow to reach his absolute potential: and the All-Star Game is the next step in the process needed to do so.
When the news hit that Devin Booker would be a participant in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game – albeit due to a groin injury sustained by Damian Lillard – Phoenix Suns fans rejoiced. It had been eight years since the franchise had a player worthy enough to be called an “All-Star”.
Obama was still in his first-term as President; ‘Call Me Maybe’ was dominating the airwaves; and everyone was dancing ‘Gangham Style’.
Yeah, it’s been that long since Steve Nash wore an All-Star uniform.
Devin Booker’s selection to Team LeBron will allow him to share the locker room with the likes of superstars such as James, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. He will no longer be the most talented guy on the team. He can take a step back and observe in person how champions conduct themselves.
The All-Star Game serves as a school for young superstars.
The knowledge and experience gained at the event (much akin to Team USA) is digested and processed, ultimately bettering the player.
In doing so, the team benefits as well.
The 2020 All-Star Weekend will be a unique event. The game will serve as a therapeutic experience for the leagues’ elite players, as this will be the first time many of them will spend time together following the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant.
Emotions will be high as the teams don #24 and #2 jerseys, commemorating the lives of Kobe and his daughter Gianna, who were lost on January 26.
Booker will be part of a game that celebrates the legacy of his idol – the player he most fashions his game after.
He will hurt among his peers.
It will be a spiritual experience for all involved.
It will provide some sense of closure to a tragedy that makes no sense.
Most of the All-Star Game’s impact that is made upon a player is on an internal and personal level.
You see it in the way they hold themselves in press conferences and in the way they conduct themselves on the court.
Neither are statistical categories.
That being said, there are some statistical benefits to having a member of your team attend the All-Star festivities:
Last year saw two guards who made their All-Star debuts:
- Khris Middleton:
- Before All-Star Game: 17.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.2 apg.
- After All-Star Game: 21.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.5 apg.
- D’Angelo Russell:
- Before All-Star Game: 20.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.6 apg.
- After All-Star Game: 23.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 7.7 apg.
It isn’t guaranteed that Booker will return and put up even better statistics (if he does, however, he will surpass the franchise record for points per game in a season, 27.2, held by Tom Chambers).
It isn’t guaranteed that he will return a better leader and will never draw a silly technical foul (why did you chirp at the refs in Mexico City?!).
What is guaranteed is that Booker will come back an All-Star. His hard work, his suffering, and his dedication is being rewarded. As well it should be.
Cheers to you Devin Booker, the first Phoenix Suns All-Star of the decade. Here’s to many, many more selections.