It was 2003 and I was 14 years old spending a weekend at my grandma’s place. Let’s admit it – while we all love seeing our grandparents, their houses are never the most exciting places to hang out for prolonged periods. That is, unless you enjoy watching TV shows that make James Lipton‘s Inside the Actor’s Studio completely enthralling. So as an excuse to leave, my uncle used my desire to watch a meaningless Game 1 between the Suns and Spurs first round matchup to get out of the house.
After spending the majority of the game learning to play pool in a mostly-empty sports bar – I still can’t play a lick with confidence – the No. 8 seeded Suns looked doomed against the No. 1 seed and eventual champion Spurs; doomed because it wasn’t expected that they had a chance. Instead, it turned into an overtime thriller, the underdog Suns pulling off the upset on a miraculous Stephon Marbury buzzer beater. Of course, Phoenix would lose 4-2 in the series, but the game sticks in my memory as one of the most exciting in my 22-year-old memory bank. It was because, as a Suns fan, there wasn’t any inkling that Phoenix could pull off the upset of a series, let alone a single game. And as an teenager yet to be jaded by the idea that sports are just a game (not to mention the false hope strewn out through the years of following Arizona sports teams), it’s quite possible that one meaningless Game 1 will, in my mind, forever hold its place as the most memorable.
That was when Doris Burke was brunette and when David Robinson was still chugging along, but it’s more than my personal account that makes it possible to unearth dozens of storylines from this one game. Looking back, that meaningless game told us so much more about basketball.