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Phoenix's Rise as a Professional Sports City

By: Al McCoy

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December 11, 2014

The Phoenix Sun's Al McCoy gives us a play-by-play on how Phoenix has grown to be the a professional sports hub it is today.

About the author

Al McCoy

Al McCoy is the official Voice of the Suns and a member of the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He is currently the most tenured broadcaster in the NBA. When Al is not sitting courtside during the basketball season, he can be found trying new restaurants around the Valley and working on his musical skills by spontaneously tickling the ivories on a local stage.

I have one of the best jobs in the world: watching the Phoenix Suns and providing play-by-play commentary to thousands of Suns fans.

I am the voice you hear when you tune into the game, and you may recognize some of my signature catchphrases. You’ve likely cheered alongside my regular “Shazam!” declarations or commiserated with me over a barely missed shot, which I refer to as the“Heartbreak Hotel.”

And while I am always keeping a keen eye on each game, I’ve also seen firsthand the metamorphous of a town that had a small sports following into a major metropolitan city that is a full-fledged professional sports hub in its own right. Phoenix has seen its share of magical moments on the basketball court, which has helped strengthen and energize the fan base into what it is today.

The first was in the early 70s. The Suns had just been established as a franchise four years earlier, and I was new to my announcer role after moving to Arizona a few years earlier. Prior to this, the team had a relatively low profile. In fact, the news of our franchise being established in the Valley in 1968 wasn’t even on the front page.

Fast-forward to 1976, and the Suns surprised everyone and went all the way to the NBA Finals. For those long-time fans, you’re likely to remember the energy and momentum of the team as electric. They were nearly unstoppable. That season, for me, represented a shift in the community. It’s when we truly embraced our professional basketball team and paved the way for future professional franchises in Arizona.

If the 1976 season established Phoenix as a sports cityand the 1992-93 season cemented it. Some of the most notable players in franchise history – Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge and Kevin Johnson, to name a few – took the team to the finals against the Chicago Bulls. It was a remarkable run. In fact, before the last game in Chicago, Barkley famously told a Chicago reporter that Bulls fans shouldn’t plan to throw any parties that evening.

After the loss, the team returned to Phoenix, obviously disappointed by how it ended. Like most teams that have a great run, they were greeted home by a fan parade. But this was no ordinary gathering. We expected a few thousand to show, but instead, more than 300,000 fans turned out. It was an incredible outpouring of support from the community, and a career highlight for me.

Suns fans are some of the best in the nation, an opinion I’ve held firmly since that day in 1993. They come to games with enthusiasm and pride and have demonstrated unwavering loyalty through the years, whether we had a great season or not. Come game day, the seats at US Airways Center are full and residents around the Valley wear their orange and purple to show support. Fans enthusiastically cheer on a good day, and rally behind the team on a rough one. 

Like our city’s namesake, Phoenix has risen as a true sports city. From its roots of having no professional teams based here and a small following in the early years, this city has become a great place to live for sports fans. And to that, I say, “Shazam!”

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