Expectations of a championship or even another finals appearance are not due the Suns, and that’s fine.
Okay, Phoenix Suns fans. We’ve seen a lot of talk here the past few days about the incredible disrespect our beloved franchise has endured in the past week from both fans and general managers who don’t seem sold on this being a championship squad or aren’t keen on labeling Booker a top 10 player in the league.
But let’s get real…that’s not disrespect. And it’s not unique to the Suns, to Arizona franchises, or even to “small market” franchises in general.
Check it out: most teams who make the finals do not make it back the next year. Even in the modern superteam era. Neither of the 2020 NBA Finals teams were in the 2021 Finals. There’s a very good chance the Suns WON’T win the West this year. That isn’t disrespecting them, it’s acknowledging reality.
And it’s a reality, however much anyone wants to deny it, that the Suns’ hopes of returning to the finals probably hinge on a 36 year-old. That’s also true of the Lakers, and I haven’t failed to notice that many Suns fans are discounting Lebron James due to his age, despite his being all of 6 months older than Chris Paul. But can we really blame anyone for not thinking Lebron>CP3, all things being equal?
And when it comes to the perceived greatness of individual Suns players…ranking players is ALWAYS splitting hairs. Always. Is it disrespecting Kyrie Irving or the Nets if someone thinks Jayson Tatum is better? Is it disrespecting Nikola Vucevic or the Bulls to say Karl Anthony Towns is better?
Can you make a case for Booker as the best shooting guard in the NBA? Sure. You can also make a case against it. That’s fine. That isn’t disrespect.
Now, is there a certain tendency on a national scale to give more attention to larger market teams? Yes. Especially glamor franchises like the Lakers who are arguably among the most famous sports franchises in the world.
At the end of the day, all a team can do is prove itself on the court. There will always be naysayers and doubters who discount the achievement. Much as some Suns fans reacted to our Finals loss by discounting the Bucks and blaming the officials or the Suns, other fans will discount the Suns and blame injuries, bad officiating or just dumb luck for whatever the Suns achieve.
If you’re waiting for a time when the Suns will be universally acclaimed as the greatest team in the NBA and fans across the nation acknowledge Booker as the undisputed MVP…you’ll be waiting until the actual Sun exhausts its hydrogen core, balloons into a red giant, and scorches the Earth into a lifeless rock.