Kevin Durant’s ankle has kicked Suns fans right where it hurts.
Immediately, their lamentations took on biblical proportions.
“The Suns are cursed!”
And that wasn’t from season-ticket holders who’ve been around buying T-shirts and hats for the last 55 years, it was just me on Twitter.
But can you blame anyone for thinking this franchise is jinxed? It’s the most hard-luck organization in the NBA, and it’s been like that since Day 1.
Who hasn’t heard the story of the infamous coin flip, where the Suns and Bucks tossed a 50-cent piece for the power to draft Lew Alcindor into their club?
The Suns lost. Alcindor joined the Bucks in 1969 and was a perennial All-Star from the jump. He led Milwaukee to a championship in his second season.
Alcindor, of course, changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and later joined the Lakers, where he would help eliminate the Suns from the playoffs five times in the 1980s. And if that wasn’t enough, he showed up in 2021 when Phoenix was up 2-0 on Milwaukee in the NBA Finals to drop a now-infamous taunt, “Bucks in six.”
That was just the latest Phoenix finals sunset.
Go back to 1976, when Suns fans had to like their chances for a championship against the Celtics.
Bill Russell was gone. Larry Bird was still in college. And Paul Pierce wasn’t even born, yet.
The Suns didn’t exactly beam into the playoffs, finishing the regular season just 42-40. But Phoenix got hot in the postseason, beating Seattle (which was coached by Mr. Russell) and Golden State for the right to face Boston for the championship.
But it wasn’t to be. The Suns went down 0-2, tied up the series at 2-2, and then lost a triple-overtime Game 5 that’s widely regarded as the greatest game ever played. Phoenix ended up losing the series 4-2.
A generation later, Charles Barkley came to town and tried to lead the Suns over the championship horizon, only to get burned by the modern era’s greatest dynasty.
Hey, at least they got there, right?
The “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns never made it past the Western Conference Finals.
Every year it was something with those guys. Joe Johnson crashed to the floor after a dunk, breaking a bone in his eye socket. Robert Horry hip checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table, prompting Suns players to come off the bench and get suspended. Nash broke his nose crashing into Derek Fisher.
But Durant’s ankle could be as bad as any or all of these if he doesn’t come back at full strength in time for a playoff run.
A coin flip can go either way, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a lot of fans miserable over his 20-year career. (Ask anybody from Detroit about that phantom foul called on Bill Laimbeer.)
The 1976 squad was never supposed to be there.
As for Barkley’s team, there’s no shame in losing to Michael Jordan.
And even the Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire-Shawn Marion squad went about as far as it was going to go, trying to reinvent the way the game was played.
But adding Durant to a core of Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker was supposed to be different.
Paul is one of the greatest ever. Booker is one of the best, right now. Ayton seems to be putting it all together. Durant was supposed to be the new sheriff in town, the loner who could organize these guys into a posse of gunslingers to clear out the wild West. (Cue the tumbleweed, ocarina and cool-looking silhouettes of these guys riding into town with squinty eyes, stubbly chins and big hats.)
The Suns were finally going to be the favorites.
They weren’t going to sneak up on anyone or exceed expectations. They were just going to go out and be the best.
Booker and Ayton were playing with a new enthusiasm.
They started winning even before Durant joined the lineup.
Then they beat Dallas, with Durant securing a key rebound at the end of the game and Booker getting under the skin of his rival, Luka Doncic.
But before he could make his home debut, Durant got hurt.
It could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. It happened to Durant. In Phoenix. Where the basketball team is jinxed.
Durant’s injury is just the latest kick in the gut for a fanbase that can’t believe its bad luck.
They’re cursed, and there’s no consensus on a cause or how to break it.
Reach Moore at [email protected] or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.
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