Phoenix Suns nickname history explained

Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns were founded in 1968, and their simple nickname has a very simple reason.

The Phoenix Suns nickname history stretches back 53 years to when the team was first introduced into the NBA. In the 1968-69 season, the Suns joined the NBA alongside the Milwaukee Bucks. At the time, the Suns were the first major professional sports franchise in the state of Arizona, and they remained the only one for nearly two decades, until the Cardinals of the NFL relocated from St. Louis to Arizona.

For their first few seasons, the Suns found mild success through the talents of “the Original Sun” Dick Van Arsdale and future Hall-of-Famers Connie Hawkins and Gail Goodrich.

How did the Phoenix Suns get their nickname?

In 1968, the Suns’ general manager Jerry Colangelo held a name-the-team contest sponsored by “The Arizona Republic” to decide on a name for the expansion franchise. Colangelo simply chose “Suns” out of 28,000 entries which included the Scorpions, Rattlers, Thunderbirds, and more obscure names such as Tumbleweeds, Poobahs, and Cactus Giants. Artist Stan Fabe, who owned a commercial printing plant in Tucson, designed the team’s first iconic logo for $200.

The Suns franchise evolved through the seasons and enjoyed many successful stretches or “eras,” many of which were named by the players that defined them. Beginning in 1988, there was the Kevin Johnson era, the Charles Barkley era, the Steve Nash era, and at present, the Devin Booker era. In 2006, under coach Mike D’Antoni, the Suns notably popularized a fast break style of play known as “seven second or less,” in which players quickly fired off shots before the opposing team could regroup and defend.

Over 53 seasons, the Suns have a 0.531 winning percentage with 30 playoff appearances and two Western Conference titles. They have yet to win a championship, though their 2021 star-studded squad of Devin Booker and Chris Paul could make history.