June 20th is the longest day of the year.
Not just because it’s the summer solstice and our second grade science teacher told us it is back in the day, but because of something that changed the lives of Suns fans forever 19 years ago.
It’s the longest day of the year because on this day in 1993 John Paxson found a way to act like a character from Mortal Kombat and reach into the metaphorical chest of Suns fans to rip out their collective hearts.
In a single moment with 3.9 seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Paxson found a way to become more unwelcome in Phoenix than 100-degree heat in March. That 3-pointer on the court at America West Arena ended what was one of the most magical runs of any sports team ever in Arizona. It ended one of the best seasons in Suns history and Charles Barkley’s best chance at a title.
Sure, the pain of that moment still haunts many of us to this day like starring in Jack and Jill haunts Al Pacino. Simply hearing any variation of the name Paxson cues up Marv Albert’s play-by-play of the moment in our minds. It’s a mental nightmare more disturbing than any Hollywood horror movie. It also was a moment that galvanized a fan base, defined a sports city and proved it deserved to be considered big time.
Thanks to that shot, Suns fans proved they’re the best of any group in Arizona, and arguably some of the best in all of professional sports. Despite losing the finals days before and the city being engulfed in temperatures that should show up on an oven and not a thermometer, hundreds of thousands of fans lined the streets of downtown Phoenix to thank a team that didn’t win a title but captured the imaginations of an entire state.
Moments like those define a group of fans. It ties them together for a lifetime and also solidifies a franchise. While the Suns have yet to win a championship, it’s those moments that eventually make fans appreciate a title that much more
In the movie Vanilla Sky one of the characters said, “The sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour.” The Suns and their fans will be living proof of that when they finally hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
June 20th may be the longest day of the year, but who knows, if things fall into place, someday the team may exercise the demons and late June may be remembered for the longest victory celebration in the city’s history rather than its longest 24 hours.
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