It is my favorite time of year. No, I’m not talking about the copious feast that is Thanksgiving, I am talking about Black Friday.
There’s nothing like waking up out of a tryptophan-induced stupor looking like an extra in the Walking Dead at two in the morning in an effort to save a few bucks. I mean honestly, who doesn’t love getting up before the sun — and most retired people — to join the huddled mass of humanity that has gathered in a non-descript parking lot in an effort to cross items off their holiday shopping list? It’s the American way.
While visions of 46-inch flat screen TVs at 40% off and $5 DVDs ran through my head as if my brain was the course for some sort of electronics marathon, I began to wonder; if there was a Black Friday ad that included the best ‘deals’ in Suns history, which ones would make the cut and what category would they fall into?
The bargain bin 99 cent CDs and DVDs
Every Black Friday, electronics retailers across the country offer a list of DVDs and CDs longer than Nic Cage’s IMDB page for the low, low price of just 99 cents. While the list, like Cage’s filmography, mostly contains titles that you’d rather use as a coaster than watch, there are usually a few unexpected hidden gems.
The list of Suns ‘deals’ is no different.
Take the Gary Gregor for Paul Silas trade in May of 1970. Gregor was a young Suns big man who had just completed a rookie season where he averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds a game. Silas was coming off his fifth year in the NBA in which he averaged 8 points and 9 rebounds a game for the Atlanta Hawks.
On the surface the deal looked like a wash for the Suns — like getting a copy of Dude Where’s My Carfor 99 cents — or a slight advantage for the Hawks. It turned out to be like finding a copy of your favorite film at the bottom of the sales bin.
Silas went on to have three very productive years in the Valley of the Sun in which his rebounds per game in each of those seasons are the first, fourth and seventh most in Suns franchise history. Gregor went on to only play one season in Atlanta and bounced around between the NBA and ABA.
Based on statistics alone, the 1976 trade of John Shumate from the Suns for Gar Heard of the Braves — not the MLB team, the former NBA team in Buffalo — seemed pretty even. But when you look at it from a historical perspective, for the Suns, it was like finding a CD from your favorite band in high school amongst the other deals. No matter what other people think, it was a hidden gem that brings back good memories long after it was made.
While Heard arrived in Phoenix in the twilight of his career and never averaged more than 12 points per game for the Suns, his impact is still felt to this day. Without that trade, one of the greatest moments in team and league history, the “Shot Heard Round the World,” never would have occurred.
The big screen TV for $200
Every Black Friday ad has a few deals like this. An item that isn’t quite top-of-the-line at a sizeable discount. It’s the kind of deal that makes you feel happy after it is complete even though it may not have been exactly what you went to the store for.
The deal in Suns history that is the perfect example of this has to be acquiring Paul Westphal and two second-round picks from the Celtics in 1975 for Charlie Scott.
Although Scott’s time in the Valley was productive, the addition of Westphal would have a large impact on the future of the Suns franchise. Westphal would go on to play five seasons in Phoenix in which he never averaged fewer than 20 points, 5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Not to mention he was a key piece in the Suns 1976-77 run to the NBA Finals.
In his time as a member of the Suns backcourt, he played in four All-Star Games and his 9,564 points still rank as the sixth highest in franchise history. The impressive five-year stint earned Westphal a place in the team’s Ring of Honor and in the hearts of the team’s fans.
The $99 top-of-the-line laptop
It’s the item that is on the front of every store’s Black Friday ad. The big shiny thing where the price has been slashed ridiculously low despite the great quality of the item. It is the type of deal that is a once or twice in a lifetime kind of bargain. It is also the kind of item that the store only has two of in stock.
I checked the back room and the Suns also happen to have two of these deals in stock. Both of which came at a huge discount but also had a huge impact.
The first great deal came in February of 1988 when the Suns sent Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Ty Corbin and three draft picks, one of which became Dan Majerle.
While Nance was a quality player, the wealth of young talent acquired in the deal completely altered the face of the franchise and changed the team’s fortunes for the next decade, making the Suns a perennial threat in the Western Conference. It was like walking into a store and getting three great items for the price of one.
It was the first trade that paved the way for arguably the greatest deal in Suns history. Say it with me everyone; the deal that sent Craig Hodges to Chicago for Ed Nealy and a second round pick. I kid. It was the deal that brought Charles Barkley to the desert and sent Jeff Hornaceck, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang to the City of Brotherly Love.
While Hornacek may have been a fan favorite, Barkley was the bona fide superstar the franchise needed to get over the hump and into the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. His arrival took not just the city of Phoenix, but the entire state by storm. Couple that with the opening of the new America West Arena (now the US Airways Center), and you had a recipe for instant success. It was the ultimate Black Friday value.
So while you stand in line in the wee hours of the morning at a fine retailer near you, remember it’s not just you that has gotten great deals over the years. The Suns have too. I just hope you find a Barkley-type deal of your own, or at least a Silas-type one, so you didn’t wake up early just to wind up with a copy of The Wickerman on DVD and a Best of Carrot Top CD.