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Paris Bass' NBA journey took him abroad, through loss, to the Suns

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
January 8, 2022

Last Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, Paris Bass saw his opening from the weak-side corner. MJ Walker, a recent addition to the Phoenix Suns on a 10-day contract, worked the pick-and-roll with Emanuel Terry, another 10-day call-up. As the Hornets doubled the ball-handler, Walker made the right read with an overhead pass that sailed over his defenders and into the rolling Terry’s hands.

Bass’ man left him to cover the ball, cutting off Terry’s lane to the basket. Terry took a dribble to his right, taking his new defender with him while Bass cut, as he’d done so many times before in his basketball career. Terry delivered the pass on target. Bass caught it, rose up and delivered the two-handed flush while Suns star Devin Booker flexed from the bench in the background.

For the casual observer, it was a relatively unremarkable play. The Suns were up by 37 at the time, late in the fourth quarter of a blowout, and both coaches had already emptied their benches.

For Bass, it was a cathartic moment stemming from a long journey that took him abroad, through loss, and finally, to the NBA.

“It was a surreal moment,” Bass said.

The 26-year-old forward, whose deal with Phoenix was officially announced on Dec. 31, is already nearing the end of his 10-day contract. Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee will finally return for Saturday’s game against the Miami Heat, and it feels highly unlikely the team has seen enough of Bass to envision any sort of long-term role for him in the Valley — especially without a G League affiliate of their own.

But Bass’ long-winding odyssey to the pros is the type of success story the NBA should be celebrating after yet another season was nearly derailed by COVID-19, and it matters no matter what his future holds.

Paris Bass’ journey abroad

Coming up in Michigan, Bass played college ball with Detroit Mercy for two years. He was the team’s leading scorer in 2015-16 before being removed from the program due to academic issues. Bass went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, played a short, 15-game stint in the G League with the Erie BayHawks, and then started playing abroad.

Over the next four years, he bounced around from professional leagues in the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Yet he never lost sight of the ultimate goal that wouldn’t come to fruition until the very end of 2021.

“I just wanted to fulfill my dream,” he said.

Bass won two championships in the Dominican Republic in 2019, earning MVP and Finals MVP honors for the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto. The following year, he won MVP honors for the Baloncesto Superior Nacional in Puerto Rico. Playing with (and against) numerous ex-NBA players like Mario Chalmers and Walter Sharpe, those veterans and his coaches gave him plenty of advice.

“When I could ask ‘em certain things, I would,” he said. “My coaches would tell me, ‘This is what NBA scouts are looking at.’ It was like a learning experience.”

In October 2021, Bass joined the Los Angeles Lakers’ G League affiliate by way of a tryout that saw only three players make the cut. Averaging 17.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, he was named to the G League All-Showcase Team in December.

Paris Bass’ journey through loss

Bass signed with his agency, Hazan Sports Management, only six days before he made it to the NBA. When he got the call that the Suns were interested in signing him to a 10-day — mid-practice with the South Bay Lakers, just three months after playing in Puerto Rico — it felt like the culmination of an uphill journey, both on and off the court.

“It was a little emotional because my father passed away around this time about a year ago,” Bass said. “God really does work in mysterious ways. It was like, ‘This is really happening.’ It was, like, ‘Wow I came a long way.’”

Bass’ father passed away on Feb. 1, 2021. Not even a year after that kind of life-changing loss, his NBA breakthrough represented a beautiful but bittersweet moment.

“People talk about their biggest fears in life, that was one of my biggest fears in life,” he said of losing his father. “It was like a part of me broke, but it was sort of a motivational thing too. He wanted me to be where I am right now and keep striving to get better.”

The 4 points that Bass scored in his 5 minutes of action against the Hornets aren’t much to the outside eye. He’s played a grand total of 7 minutes across two appearances with the Suns, and for the masses following this title contender, his story would be easy to overlook.

Monty Williams and the Suns have consistently pushed back on that idea.

As NBA on TNT sideline reporter Chris Haynes detailed, Chris Paul scolded a few Boston Celtics fans on the road last week after they heckled Terry for being a “one-day player.” Paul told the fans they deserved respect for being ready and responding to the call to help keep the NBA’s season alive while being ravaged by the Omicron variant and health and safety protocols. The fans later apologized to Terry via DM after the game.

That wasn’t the only time Paul made a point of uplifting one of his new teammates trying to pursue his dream on a 10-day deal.

After Bass scored his first NBA points last Sunday, Paul made a point of emphasis to huddle up the team and present Bass with the game ball.

“It’s surreal,” Bass described it. “It’s just like, I came a long, long long way and I’m finally here, especially to hear a Hall-of-Famer like that say, ‘Young fella, you earned it.’ I’m just blessed.”

Paul isn’t alone in valuing these 10-day additions; it’s a sentiment that’s been echoed up and down the roster in Phoenix. Williams has seen how these situations can turn into something more, pointing out how the Suns unearthed Cam Payne in similar fashion during the 2020 NBA Bubble.

“From my perspective, watching all of these guys get these 10-day deals and live out their dream, I think it’s disrespectful, some of the things that have been said about these guys, and fans coming out in different markets, talking to these guys on the bench about how they don’t belong and that kind of thing,” Williams said. “I think what gets missed is if we didn’t have those guys, we probably couldn’t continue to play. I think it’s pretty disrespectful to smash somebody’s dream. These guys have worked their tails off their whole life, and if it’s for one 10-day contract, I think that’s really, really cool. So I applaud all the guys that have worked and been ready to play, and then come in and been an asset to just about every team in the league.”

Booker, who jumped off the bench and flexed when Bass got his first NBA points, said he never directly crossed paths with the 6-foot-8 forward despite their shared Michigan ties, but he’s been impressed with Bass’ work ethic and how hard he’s had to fight to get to this point.

“For me, it’s anybody in the league or anybody fighting to be in the league, going through the G League or any professional career of playing overseas,” Booker said. “I have a lot of respect for these guys, and not a lot of people understand what we — and them — go through on a day-to-day basis. It’s a grind, for real. So I respect every guy that laces ’em up.”

In his short stint in the Valley, Bass said his new teammates have been extremely helpful and welcoming. On his first day, multiple Suns told him to reach out with any questions he had about anything. He was immediately added to the team group chat upon arriving in Phoenix, and Williams quickly branded him with a nickname — one that Bass couldn’t recall but made him laugh just thinking about.

“It’s a real family here,” Bass said. “They welcome everybody with open hands, they congratulated everybody on making it here.”

As for his future prospects, the next step in the journey is unclear. The Suns hold the best record in the NBA and have one of the deepest rosters in basketball, leaving little room for season-long additions, especially after Jalen Smith’s breakout and Bismack Biyombo’s emergence in the frontcourt.

But Bass hasn’t come this far in pursuit of his dream to be deterred now, and no matter what comes next, he views his time with the Suns as a learning experience.

“I’m just here to prove to people that I belong and take what I can from learning each day,” he said. “You learn something new in basketball every day.”

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