With the sun setting on another decade of NBA basketball, I decided to take a look back at the best of the best from the past ten seasons.
However, when you’ve got a two-time MVP in Steve Nash choosing a “Player of the Decade” just doesn’t seem fair.
Meanwhile, when you’ve got a team renowned for its high-flying, high-scoring shenanigans… well, we don’t have enough interns to try and select a “Play of the Decade.”
But “Game of the Decade” is definitely doable and so, well, I did.
The following are 10 candidates for “Suns Game of the Decade” along with votes from front office executives, players, broadcasters, Suns employees and fans. Of course, before all is said and done, you too will have your say.
So call the decade the “2000s”, the “zeroes” or the “aughts”, just make sure you secure your vote for “Suns Game of the Decade.” If it helps, simply vote on a game you most wish you’d been in attendance for. Or better yet, maybe were. Happy New Year!
2001-02: April 17 – Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks
On a night that Dan Majerle played in his 955th and final NBA game, everybody from fans to teammates made sure to show “Thunder” precisely how much his efforts in a Suns uniform have been appreciated. Convinced by teammates to start in the contest, Majerle was the recipient of numerous standing ovations throughout the night and made sure to give the fans something to cheer about.
For the night, “Thunder” fittingly connected on three trifectas, giving the sharpshooter 1,360 for his career – 800 of which came in a Suns uniform. The final shot came with just 23.8 seconds remaining and was made by the All-Star after he had missed eight-straight attempts. The future Ring of Honor inductee celebrated the shot from downtown by doing push-ups on center court, showing the crowd that the old man was leaving behind his NBA playing career despite still having a little bit of gas in the tank.
2003 Opening Round – Game 1 at San Antonio Spurs
Following a one-year hiatus from the postseason, the Suns returned to the NBA Playoffs with a bang as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Waiting for the upstart team of youngsters which featured Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion and that season’s Rookie of the Year recipient, Amaré Stoudemire, were that year’s top seed, the San Antonio Spurs. While Phoenix ultimately fell short in the spectacular series, they certainly gave the eventual champion Spurs all they could handle right from the start in Game 1.
It was in fact the youngest Sun, Stoudemire, making the biggest impact for Phoenix down the stretch, thanks to the 3-point shot he banked in with just 7.9 seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime, the Suns again got some help thanks from downtown after Tim Duncan missed a free throw with just 5.1 seconds remaining. The Suns grabbed the rebound off the missed free throw and quickly got the ball into the hands of their playmaker, Marbury, who raced up the court and hit a running 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired.
2005-06: Dec. 16, 2003 – Suns vs. SuperSonics
Coaching so many talented teams after this contest took place, it’s no surprise why the first Suns coaching win for Mike D’Antoni is such a forgotten classic. With the Suns looking to put an end to a six-game skid, the Sonics actually had a couple of chances to end the game in regulation but failed to put the game away.
In overtime, the Suns – who at one point in the ballgame trailed by 16 points – pulled out the victory thanks to a remarkable play by Anfernee Hardaway and Shawn Marion. “Penny” threw a 30-foot inbounds pass over the rim which was caught and slammed by the “Matrix” with just 5.6 seconds left on the clock. Not the prettiest game for Phoenix this decade, but perhaps a nice start to the high-flying era that D’Antoni would coach for the next several seasons.
2005 Conference Semifinals – Game 6 at Dallas Mavericks
Thanks largely to the signing of Steve Nash, a year after failing to reach the postseason, the 2004-05 Suns enjoyed one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. In fact, the only thing standing in Phoenix’s way of reaching the Western Conference Finals were Nash’s former ballclub, the Dallas Mavericks. The six-game battle which took place between the two ballclubs would indeed prove to be one for the ages.
Perhaps the game most remembered from that series was the one which determined the winner, Game 6 hosted by Dallas. Placing his new team squarely onto his shoulders, Nash barely missed a triple-double in the clincher, finishing with 39 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. At one point in the contest, the two teams appeared destined to be heading for a Game 7, but the Suns erased a 16-point third-quarter deficit setting up Nash’s three-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation. Nash’s late fourth quarter surge carried over for the Suns into overtime as they emerged 130-126 victors.
*FRONT OFFICE PICK*
STEVE KERR: I chose this one because of the magnitude of the game. Our guys were so clutch in that contest on the road, first from hitting the tying three and then winning in overtime against a great team, it was just an amazing effort.
DAVID GRIFFIN: I just remember the energy from that team and the way they rallied around Steve Nash in that contest. Afterwards there was a realization that something special had taken place and they all knew it.
AL MCCOY: Just seeing Steve take over against his old team in a game that would eventually catapult the Suns into the Western Conference Finals, that was the reason I have to go with the contest in Dallas.
2005-06: Jan. 2, 2006 – Suns at Knicks
Not every big-time ballgame for a team needs to involve a retirement ceremony or have the results of a playoff series hanging in the balance. In fact, that’s what made the Suns a must-watch team throughout this decade, is that any great game could come on any given night. That was never more than apparent as Phoenix took its high-flying show on the road to Madison Square Garden for a midseason contest against the Knicks on January 2.
Former Sun Stephon Marbury led the Knicks with 32 points as a Knicks team desperate for a win gave the Suns everything they had. The Suns – already running on fumes from playing an overtime game in its previous contest – would be forced to play in three on this night as they looked to close out its road trip a perfect 5-0. Shawn Marion scored a career-high 39 points while Steve Nash added 28 and a career-best 22 assists, but it wasn’t enough as Phoenix fell in New York, 133-140, proving again why they call the Big Apple the city that never sleeps.
2006 Opening Round: Game 6 at Lakers
Having already faced a 3-1 deficit in this classic series, the Suns were attempting to do the near impossible in simply forcing a Game 7. Add into the equation that they were trying to do this without the services of the suspended Raja Bell – on the road no less – and it’s no wonder why those outside of Planet Orange didn’t give the Suns a chance at surviving this series.
But a team that had already defied the odds during the regular season by playing without Amaré Stoudemire, would somehow find a way to overcome obstacles again in Round One of the playoffs. The evening marked a career-night for Kobe Bryant who scored 50 points, but the total team effort provided by the Suns proved to be the difference. Steve Nash who that season had captured his second-straight MVP Award led Phoenix with 32 points and 13 assists, but it was Suns newcomer Tim Thomas who is best remembered as the MVP of that game. Thomas’ 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds remaining forced the overtime session in which Boris Diaw and Shawn Marion each contributed six points. One game later, the Suns would be on their way to the Western Conference Semifinals matchup with Los Angeles’ other team, the Clippers.
ALVIN GENTRY: Going into Los Angeles shorthanded without our starting shooting guard in a game that we had to win to keep alive, that was just a great memory for this team. It’s especially big because without that game we obviously don’t win the Game 7 that determined the series.
2006 Conference Semifinals: Game 5 vs. Clippers
Just a handful of games removed from that memorable Game 6 against the Lakers, the Suns found themselves in another gem against the Clippers. A team many were surprised to see playing in the Conference Semifinals was keeping Phoenix’s hands filled, and forced the Suns into what was essentially a must-win Game 5 at home.
With the series tied at two games apiece, a loss for Phoenix would mean going on the road for a do-or-die Game 6. Raja Bell, suspended for the aforementioned game against the Lakers, did not want to see that scenario and showed so in the first overtime with a dramatic 3-pointer from the corner. The shot left just 1.1 seconds on the clock and ultimately led to a second overtime where Shawn Marion took over, scoring six of his 36 points. The Matrix also added 20 rebounds on the night as Phoenix won 125-118 in Game 5, ultimately taking the series in seven.
STEVE NASH: Even though we lost the next game in Los Angeles, that game meant so much to the series. Without it, we’re heading on the road facing elimination and who knows what happens. That win meant that worst-case-scenario, we host a Game 7 and that’s exactly what we did, eventually winning the series in front of our home fans.
WRITER’S PICK: Real hard to choose between this and the Game 6 against the Lakers. I had to give this one the nod, however, in large part because I was an intern standing in the Suns tunnel when Raja Bell hit the shot that would eventually project Phoenix into the Conference Finals.
2006-07: Dec. 7, 2006 – Suns at Nets
What at first appeared to be “just another regular season affair” turned into something much more when the Suns faced the Nets in New Jersey on December 7th. A decade removed from being teammates, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd squared off in what could be the NBA’s best regular season game of the decade.
Kidd scored 38 points and contributed the 78th triple-double of his career in the contest, a mark which tied legendary center Wilt Chamberlain for third on the all-time list. Nash, the one-time student of Kidd, schooled his counterpart at times, finishing the night with a career-high tying 42 points and 13 assists. The Suns playmaker was big down the stretch, drilling a 3-pointer to force overtime and then scoring nine points in the extra session to secure the 161-157 victory.
GRANT HILL: I remember watching that game and it was just so enjoyable seeing two of the game’s best players going at it. Both Steve Nash and Jason Kidd tried everything they could to wield their team to victory with Nash ending up on top in the end.
2006-07: Suns at Cleveland
The one game on here that doesn’t jump out at fans, it was historical for the Suns organization nonetheless. After seeing its then-franchise-best 15-game win streak snapped at home against the Washington Wizards on Dec. 22, the Suns somehow found a way to put together an even more impressive streak that began on Dec. 29 against New York.
Wins during the second run included a nail-biter in Chicago and a 42-performance by Amaré Stoudemire in Memphis, but it was this contest against the Cavaliers that set a new mark for regular season dominance. The win marked their 17th straight and also included an impressive performance by Steve Nash who finished the night with 23 points and 15 assists. The streak which would be snapped one game later at Minnesota is still the best the Suns have ever enjoyed and at the time was the best the NBA had seen in the past seven years.
2006-07: March 14, 2007 – Suns at Mavericks
While it didn’t have the playoff intensity of that 2005 Western Conference Semifinal matchup discussed earlier, this one definitely goes down as a decade favorite for many fans. Amaré Stoudemire’s 41-points and 10-rebounds had carried the Suns all game long, but it was Steve Nash taking over against his former ballclub down the stretch, finishing with 10 points in the final minute of regulation. The amazing run was capped off by a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining which forced the first of two overtimes.
In that first overtime, the show was run by Nash’s counterpart, Jason Terry, who scored five points in the final 48 seconds to force a second overtime. The two top teams in the NBA hadn’t disappointed in the big matchup, but when Dirk Nowitzki failed to connect in the second overtime, it was Nash grabbing the board to help Phoenix secure a 129-127 win.
Tweet out your answer and include @PhoenixSuns for your chance at tickets for a game which could be a candidate for the next decade.