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Who should be inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor next?

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
December 14, 2023
Mike D'Antoni, Monty Williams, Chris Paul and Devin Booker headline the list of names who should be inducted into the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor next

On Friday against the New York Knicks, the Phoenix Suns will officially induct Shawn Marion into the Suns Ring of Honor. It’s a long, long overdue moment for one of the greatest players in the franchise’s 56-year history, and the latest example of owner Mat Ishbia improving this organization’s perception by just making the layups.

Marion will be the 16th player inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor, while his former Seven Seconds or Less teammate Amar’e Stoudemire will get his own induction night on March 2.

“Shawn and Amar’e helped define the Suns and inspired generations of fans, and our Suns family is incomplete without them in the Ring of Honor,” Ishbia said in a statement. “As we embark on the new era of Suns basketball it is a priority that we remain connected to our storied history.”

Ishbia is 100 percent correct in his assertion that the Suns Ring of Honor would be incomplete without the Matrix and STAT. As a four-time NBA All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection, Marion averaged 18.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game on 48.1 percent shooting during his time in Phoenix.

In 2004-05, he was the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 25 for points, rebounds, steals, blocks AND minutes. He also joined David Robinson as the only players in NBA history to ever rank in the top-five in rebounds and steals in the same season…and then he did it again the next season. The year after that, he led the league in steals.

Diving deeper into the numbers, Marion has a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame, let alone the Ring of Honor. His ranks on the Suns all-time leaderboards cement his lasting importance to the franchise and its proud history:

  • 6th in games played
  • 2nd in minutes
  • 3rd in made field goals
  • 5th in made 3-pointers
  • 2nd in rebounds
  • 2nd in steals
  • 3rd in blocks
  • 5th in points
  • 4th in offensive win shares
  • 2nd in defensive win shares
  • 1st in total win shares
  • 1st in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP)

Marion’s No. 31 will be the 11th jersey the Suns have retired, joining Alvan Adams (33), Charles Barkley (34), Tom Chambers (24), Walter Davis (6), Connie Hawkins (42), Kevin Johnson (7), Dan Majerle (9), Steve Nash (13), Dick Van Arsdale (5) and Paul Westphal (44).

“This is amazing to be recognized by the Suns family in this way,” Marion said in a statement. “The fans in Phoenix are one-of-a-kind and this city will always be a part of me. My time with the Suns was special and I am looking forward to being inducted into the Ring of Honor.”

Looking ahead to such a joyful event, the natural question that follow is: Who deserves to be inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor next? Stoudemire will obviously become the 22nd ROH member in a few months, but what about beyond that? Let’s take a look at some former (and current) Suns who are on the short list of potential candidates.

Mike D’Antoni

After Marion and STAT get in, Mike D’Antoni will be the last vestige of the Seven Seconds or Less era who deserves recognition. Aside from changing the way we view NBA offense and giving fans some of the most entertaining teams in Suns history, D’Antoni’s resume speaks for itself.

After five seasons with the team, D’Antoni still ranks second in games coached (389), second in regular-season wins (253) and third in win percentage (.650) among the 21 head coaches in Suns history. He never could get over the hump (or even get Phoenix to the NBA Finals), but he still ranks second in playoff games (51), third in playoff wins (26) and fifth in playoff win percentage (.510).

“Mr. Pringles” is one of only three Suns coaches to ever win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award (2004-05). There are only 21 coaches in NBA history with more regular-season victories than Mike D (672), and he’d be the most deserving candidate to join Jerry Colangelo, Cotton Fitzsimmons, John MacLeod, Al McCoy and Joe Proski as non-players in the Ring of Honor.

Everyone on this list has a case to get in eventually, but taking care of Mike D’Antoni should be the next priority after Matrix and STAT.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul is the most controversial candidate on this list, mostly because he was only in Phoenix for three years. There’s something to be said for longevity, and not a single member in the Suns Ring of Honor had such a short tenure.

However, dismissing CP3’s case simply because he wasn’t here for long completely overlooks the immense value he brought to the organization during the most successful period in its 56 years of existence.

When it comes to personal accolades, Paul was a two-time All-NBA selection here, giving him more All-NBA nods in Phoenix than current Ring of Honor members Alvan Adams, Connie Hawkins, Dan Majerle and Dick Van Arsdale. In just three seasons, his two All-NBA selections were as many as Tom Chambers had in five seasons and Walter Davis had in 11 seasons.

As a two-time All-Star, Paul also had more All-Star selections than Alvan Adams. He led the entire league in assists once in Phoenix, won a Western Conference championship and helped propel the Suns to their third Finals appearance ever.

Statistically, he ranks first on the Suns all-time leaderboard in offensive rating, second in assist percentage and second in assists per game. While Steve Nash obviously was around for a lot longer, won two MVPs and had better shooting splits, dismissing his Paul’s counting stats (15.1 PPG, 9.5 APG, 4.5 RPG on .480/.366/.867 shooting splits) doesn’t work, since they’re not far off from M-V-Steve’s numbers in the Valley (14.4 PPG, 9.4 APG, 3.1 RPG on .504/.435/.907).

Rest assured, CP3’s inclusion has been a contentious topic on the PHNX Suns Podcast multiple times:

But even looking beyond the numbers and accolades during his brief time in Phoenix, the argument is really this simple: If you’re making a list of the most influential, impactful Suns in franchise history, leaving off Chris Paul would be absolutely asinine.

Devin Booker is and always has been the driving force of Phoenix’s current success, but CP3 validated what the Suns were building — and Book himself — by angling to be traded to Phoenix. He empowered Booker as a floor general to make his life easier for once, undoubtedly taught him some tricks of the trade as a point guard, and let the league know that Devin Booker is the kind of star other stars want to play with.

Paul did plenty of heavy lifting in his own right though. The Suns went from a 38-win pace the season before he arrived to a 58-win pace in his first season in the Valley. He was a driving force behind one of only three Suns teams to ever reach the Finals, as well as the team that won a franchise-best 64 games.

In fact, Paul helped fuel one of the fastest turnarounds in NBA history from the league’s worst record to its best. His typical on-court shenanigans, late-game mastery and impeccable closeout performances against the Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans shouldn’t be forgotten just because he took a step backward in his final Suns season at age 37.

Charles Barkley had to win an MVP and take Phoenix to the Finals to earn his Ring of Honor spot in just four seasons. Paul played here for one fewer season, and while he doesn’t have an MVP award, he did finish fifth in MVP voting in 2020-21.

Aside from Barkley and Nash, guess how many current Ring of Honor members had a top-five finish in MVP voting during their entire Suns tenures? Only two: Walter Davis (1977-78) and Connie Hawkins (1969-70).

The Suns are one of the only teams in the NBA to even bother having a Ring of Honor, and as a ringless organization to this point, it’d be absolutely insane to keep Chris Paul off the list. Nobody outside of Barkley had a greater impact on the Suns in such a short time, and if the point of the Ring of Honor is to celebrate the players who left an enduring mark on the franchise, gatekeeping the Point God would be a middle finger to the whole point of even having a Ring of Honor.

Monty Williams

Now we’re really getting feisty! If you didn’t like seeing Chris Paul’s name on the list, you’re probably not going to like seeing Monty Williams here either. And that’s okay; there’s a reason “fan” is short for “fanatic.”

But when it comes to Monty, the tumultuous end of his Suns tenure and the team’s repeated, inexplicable playoff collapses under his watch, it’d be easy to let emotions rule the day. Retroactively rewriting history is nothing new.

With that being said…resist the urge. For all his shortcomings, bad blood with Deandre Ayton and current failings with the Detroit Pistons, letting those things overshadow what he accomplished during his Suns tenure would be a mistake.

Like D’Antoni, Williams’ coaching resume speaks for itself. He’s fourth in franchise history in regular-season games (309), fourth in wins (194) and fourth in win percentage (.628). And despite those humiliating losses in Game 7 to the Dallas Mavericks and Game 6 to the Denver Nuggets, the 2021 NBA Finals run can’t be ignored. Williams ranks third in franchise history in playoff games (46), second in playoff wins (27) and second in playoff win percentage (.587).

Only three Suns coaches have ever won Coach of the Year, and Monty Williams is one of them. He also won the NBCA Coach of the Year award — voted by his peers — in back-to-back seasons during his tenure.

It’s easy to poke fun at Montyisms like “well done is better than well said,” “can’t get happy on the farm” or “reps remove doubt” now, but his Suns teams routinely ranked in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive efficiency. Most of his players trusted him, and Phoenix had its most successful chapter in its 55 years of existence under his watch.

That mattered, especially after languishing at the bottom of the league for a decade leading up to his arrival.

Williams brought stability to an organization that was going through head coaches faster than Hogwarts goes through Defense Against the Dark Arts professors. At the time, Booker desperately needed a better roster, a coach who knew what he was doing, and a front office that could empower all of the above.

For the first time in Booker’s career, he got those things, and it started with hiring Williams and that magical bubble run — complete with the speech that felt like a ray of sunshine back in the darkness of 2020, helping every Suns fan believe there was still good in this crazy world:

Time heals all wounds, and a decade from now, hopefully Suns fans will be able to look back on his tenure with the respect and fondness it deserves. Because simply put, Monty Williams was instrumental in shaping the culture, and any argument against him being in the Suns Ring of Honor either comes from a place of emotion, recency bias, or a fundamental lack of knowledge on the franchise’s history.

Devin Booker

Devin Booker is the chosen one. Even without the MVP awards that Nash and Barkley won, a case could be made for Booker to already be the greatest Phoenix Sun of all time. And even if he’s not there yet, a championship would vault him ahead of everyone else.

Either way, Booker will be a surefire Ring of Honor member down the line. He’s already scaling the Suns leaderboards, ranking 10th in games played, eighth in minutes, fourth in field goals, first in made 3-pointers, sixth in assists and third in points at age 27. He has the most 30- and 40-point games in franchise history by a long shot, he’s scoring at a Hall-of-Fame pace, and he led Phoenix to one of its three NBA Finals appearances while scoring the most points in any NBA player’s first postseason.

Throw in the clutch buzzer-beaters, the viral off-court moments, the top-five finish in MVP voting in 2021-22, the 64-win season, the closeout playoff performances and the way he’s truly connected with the culture here in Phoenix, and there probably won’t be a superstar as popular or as talented wearing a Suns jersey for a long, long time.

At this point, it’s just a matter of whether the Suns wait until after his playing days to induct him. But if he does bring Phoenix its long-awaited title, his induction and statue outside the arena should be ready to go by the start of the following season.

Suns Ring of Honor Honorable Mentions

Kevin Durant — If the Suns win a title over these next couple of seasons, you’re not going to NOT put one of the 15 greatest players to ever live in the Ring of Honor. What he’s doing at age 35 is unbelievable, so if he’s a catalyst on the first championship team in Suns history, it’s a no-brainer.

Bradley Beal — Similar argument for Beal, though he’ll have to be a significant contributor during that hypothetical title run to get ROH consideration. For now, Suns fans should just be happy he’s healthy again.

Mikal Bridges — I’m just saying, if Mikal Bridges returns as a free agent in 2026, you definitely can’t rule this out down the road. As it stands, Bridges hasn’t accomplished nearly enough in a Suns uniform to make the Ring of Honor, but if he comes back as a fully polished two-way star in a few years, reunites with Booker and a fanbase that adores him, and wins a title? All of those stars aligning feels unlikely, but it’s not impossible either. He’s already a Sun for life, as the Twins’ emotional return to Phoenix already reminded everyone.

Baxter Holmes — We’re kidding….mostly. Shedding light on the vile things Robert Sarver did and said during his time as Suns owner deserves some type of honorary membership, especially since Holmes’ watchdog reporting ultimately took him down. But given the way Ishbia has spoken about Sarver (and how bad a look this type of joke would be for the NBA), don’t count on it actually happening. Just in our hearts and minds.

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