The one question everyone seems to ask me when they find out what I do for a living is, “What’s it like to work in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns?” Usually my answer is somewhere between polite and brutally honest. I tell people that most days are like every other job. You clock in, sit at your desk and do your best to get your work done. The answer is a lot like seeing a Kardashian in person: not quite as glamorous as you’d expect.
The key to the description is “most days.” On some days calling the US Airways Center your office can be nothing short of surreal. This week had one of those days for me. It was a 12-hour period that had the potential to be one of the worst in my life, but turned into yet another reminder of why I’ve always had a connection with the Suns and the building.
Like most people, when the morning rolls around, I act like a cast member of The Walking Dead (and I’m not talking about one of the people fighting for their survival). I stumble around, feel awful and the only audible noise I can produce is a grunt. This particular morning was bad because I had an 8 a.m. biopsy result appointment. While I was prepared for either answer, turns out the doctor didn’t have the results. All I accomplished was seeing the new scar he created by removing a stitch, and I was an hour late for work.
As I drove up to the arena gates at a speed usually reserved for a NASCAR driver — Editors Note: If you’re a Phoenix police officer reading this, that part was embellished — I didn’t take time to even realize that I was coming to work at a building that I had been visiting since I was a kid. That’s because I knew I had mere minutes to get inside and down to the practice court as the mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, was practicing with the Mercury and I had to take photos.
What should have been a simple photo opportunity turned into something much more … well … entertaining. As the mayor practiced with the team I stood on the court next to his security team. After a few minutes I was fairly impressed with the mayor’s athleticism, that was, until he went down like Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. To be fair, he did get hit in the nose by center Nakia Sanford hard enough that he made the cement floor of the practice court hallway look like the set of the Expendables 2. The incident resulted in a media availability where Stanton joked about the incident with gauze in his nose, a trip to the hospital and the diagnosis of a fracture. The entire thing made headlines around the internet on sites like Deadspin, TMZ and ESPN, yet, it still wasn’t the most surreal thing that happened.
Upon returning to my desk, I found the great Al McCoy standing near my desk holding court (no pun intended). He began sharing stories about his favorite broadcast partners ever, who the best player he ever saw on the Suns was and his craziest stories from the road. For a lifelong fan of the team who views McCoy as a big reason why he got into the business, this moment made me smile. It was like spending time listening to your favorite relative tell stories about the old days. Yet, it still wasn’t the most unique part of my day.
That came at about 2 o’clock when I had to head back down to the practice court for a photo shoot with new Sun and six-time NBA all-star Jermaine O’Neal. As I reached level 0 of the arena and passed the doors to the Suns locker room, my phone rang and I recognized the number. It was the doctor’s office. As I stood there in the same hallway that Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Charles Barkley and numerous other Suns greats wandered during their careers, I realized one of the more pivotal moments of my life was about to occur. I was about to find out if I had cancer or not. I answered the phone and the doctor began to speak.
Right at the moment he was about to share the test results I looked up to see coach Alvin Gentry passing by me on the phone himself. The second the doctor said the biopsy results were negative, the nicest head coach in the league gave me a fist bump. That’s just how he is. What he didn’t know was he had just taken part in one of the more joyous moments in my life. As he continued on his way and I hung up with the doctor I looked up at the wall at the large graphic of Charles Barkley, my favorite Sun ever, and smiled with relief.
I proceeded to the practice court. While standing next to Jermaine O’Neal as he talked about why he decided to join the Suns, something he said struck a chord. He explained the organization seemed like a family. I don’t remember much of what else he said because that phrase kept replaying in my mind.
The Phoenix Suns, even before I collected a paycheck from the organization, have always been like family. As a fan they’ve been there for every major event in my life. The aforementioned McCoy provided the soundtrack for some of my favorite moments and some of my favorite memories happened at the US Airways Center. Memories like spending my ninth birthday in the upper deck with all my family as Barkley, KJ and Thunder Dan took on the Jazz. I was sitting in the fourth row to see Sir Charles score his 20,000th point. I attended my first sporting event with a press pass when I was 15, and last year’s peak- being hired for my first job in professional sports.
It was a reminder of why I love sports and wanted to make a career being a part of them. As fans we don’t root for dollar figures and roster moves, we root for organizations because they’ve been with us since we were kids. They’ve been there, playing in the background, for all the ups and downs in our lives like we’ve been there to watch theirs.
So the next time someone asks me my favorite question, I’m going to tell them that working for the Suns is a lot like any job. That is, if you clock in and never know what might happen in a day, like politicians breaking body parts, famous people sharing crazy stories and finding out that you have a second chance to appreciate your first love after an uncanny reminder that it’s something you’ve wanted since you were a kid.