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Charles Barkley looks back at his first season in Phoenix as he was named 1992-93 NBA MVP and the Suns reached the 1993 finals before losing to Chicago.

Arizona Republic

The Republic’s five-part series on four all-time favorite Phoenix Suns ends with a look back at why fans loved Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire – and one more.

Have a nickname.

Be productive.

Play with passion and enthusiasm.

Win.

The Phoenix Suns have had their share of players check those boxes over the years. The crowd cheered their victories and achievements – and cried when they came up just short.

With this being an election year, The Republic asked fans to name their four all-time favorite Suns after beat reporter Duane Rankin received a surge of responses to posing the question on Twitter.

A five-part series emerged as more than 100 responses came through from social media, emails and comments on the previous series stories.

So, without further ado, here’s the all-time top four, based on your feedback, Suns fans.

1. Steve Nash (1996-98, 2004-12)

Voting breakdown: 86 votes (29 first place) 257 total points.

Nicknames: M-V-Steve. Nashty. Mr. 50 40 90.

Position: PG. Dimensions: 6-3, 195.

Accolades: 2-time NBA MVP (2005, 2006). 8-time All-Star. 7-time All-NBA (3X first team: 2005-07), 5-time NBA assist leader (2005-07, 2010-11). Suns Ring of Honor (2015), Naismith Hall of Fame inductee (2018).

Steve Nash speaks at Suns Ring of Honor induction ceremony in Talking Stick Resort Arena in Oct. 2015. (Photo: Jennifer Stewart, Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports)

With Suns

Stats (10 seasons): 14.4 ppg., 9.4 apg., 50.4% FG, 43.5% 3PT, 90.7% FT.

50-plus win seasons (6): 62-20 (2004-05), 61-21 (2006-07), 56-26 (1997-98), 55-27 (2007-08). 54-28 (2005-06, 2009-10).

Playoff appearances (7): Reached Western Conference finals three times – 2005, 2006, 2010.

Why they loved Nash

“If there is anyone in Phoenix that doesn’t name Steve Nash as a final four fan favorite, they never followed ‘Seven Seconds or Less.’ Games were the best when we were down 10 with two minutes to play. Nashty was like an artist, and he made others look like all-stars.” – Suns fan Terri Smith.

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3. Kevin Johnson (1987-98, 1999-2000)

Voting breakdown: 32 votes (10 first place) 89 total points.

Nickname: K.J.

Position: PG: Dimensions: 6-1, 180.

Accolades: 3-time All-Star. 4-time All-NBA. Most improved player (1988-89 season, first full season in Phoenix). Suns Ring of Honor (2001).

Former Phoenix Suns Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Charles Barkley are honored at Decade Night, a celebration of the players from the 1990s during half time on Jan. 12, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.  (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

With Suns

Stats (12 seasons): 18.7 ppg., 9.5 apg., 49.4% FG, 30.7% 3PT, 84.1 FT%.

50-plus win seasons (9): 62-20 (1992-93), 59-23 (1994-95), 56-26 (1993-94, 1997-98), 55-27 (1988-89, 1990-91). 54-28 (1989-90), 53-29 (1991-92, 1999-2000).  

Playoff appearances (11): Reached NBA Finals – 1993. Western Conference finals – 1989, 1990.

Careful consideration

A handful of fans said they won’t put Johnson in their top four because he faced allegations of sexual misconduct after retiring. Johnson wasn’t charged or arrested and denied the allegations. The Republic is sensitive to the matter, but since he’s still fan favorite to many who responded, Johnson is on the list.    

Why they loved Johnson

“I will never forget Johnson on defense demolishing the (New York) Knicks in March of ’93 and the frustrated Knicks starting a brawl that got Doc Rivers, (John) Starks, Johnson, Danny Ainge and a few others ejected. Barkley scored 31 and the Suns won easy. Nash was a great player for a long time, but for a while, Johnson’s flame burned brighter.” – Suns fan Jim McManus.

“Kevin was quick, explosive, great leaping ability. Very competitive. He comes to Phoenix in that massive trade (in 1987-88 season). It took some guts to take your best player (Larry Nance) and package that, but the only way to make a major move was to do what I did and that was trade our best player for (Mark West, Ty Corbin and Johnson). We felt all along Kevin Johnson could be a star. He just needed the opportunity. He took off immediately and the fans loved him. His explosiveness, scoring ability, his quickness. Another great personality. He played with great enthusiasm.” – Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.  

4. Amar’e Stoudemire

Voting breakdown: 37 votes (5 first place) 79 total points.

Nickname: STAT (Standing Tall and Talented).   

Position: C/PF. Dimensions: 6-10, 245.

Accolades: 6-Time All-Star, 5-Time All-NBA (1X First team: 2007). Rookie of the Year (2002-03 season).

With Suns

Stats (8 seasons): 21.4 ppg., 8.9 rpg., 54.4% FG, 75.8% FT.

50-plus win seasons (6): 62-20 (2004-05), 61-21 (2006-07),  55-27 (2007-08). 54-28 (2005-06, 2009-10).

Playoff appearances (5): Reached Western Conference finals twice – 2005, 2010.

Why they loved Stoudemire

“Amar’e was drafted (by Phoenix), grew up and became a man there. He owned a restaurant for a long time, was always giving back to communities, but his combination between speed, strength and explosiveness was unmatched. That only comes once in a decade.” – Dudley.

“I was a young teenager when Amar’e was drafted, and was fascinated by the concept of players going straight from high school to the NBA. Like most, I loved Stoudemire’s high-flying athleticism, relentless style and pick-and-roll partnership with Steve Nash. I can understand why some Suns fans get aggravated when Deandre Ayton doesn’t try to rip the rim off every time he gets the ball, because we were all so incredibly spoiled by Amar’e.” – Mizell.

Valley duo

“There was not a lot on the surface for a natural pairing of a 30-year-old Canadian who had one Division I offer and a 21-year-old phenom who did not need college. But when the surface was hardwood, they became show-stoppers because nobody had seen a duo like that,” – former Republic Suns beat reporter Paul Coro.

Coro continued: “Playing Amar’e at center was crazy talk then. He didn’t even love it as an identity. But once STAT got stats, Nash got wins and they got oohs and ahhs everywhere they went, it was on. They reinvented the game with original skill combinations – Nash’s creative passing and elite shooting and Stoudemire’s ferocity at the rim and perimeter touch.

“And people loved the showmanship, whether it was Nash’s dry wit and flashy assists or Stoudemire talking brash and turning defenders into posters. It was Phoenix’s spin on (John) Stockton-(Karl) Malone.” 

Plus 1 more – Shawn Marion (1999-2008)

Voting breakdown: 29 votes (7 first place) 74 total points

Nickname: The Matrix.   

Position: F. Dimensions: 6-7, 220.

Accolades: 4-Time All-Star, 1-Time All-NBA.

With Suns

Stats (9 seasons): 18.4 ppg., 10 rpg., 48.1% FG, 34.2% 3PT, 82.4% FT.

50-plus win seasons (6): 62-20 (2004-05), 61-21 (2006-07), 55-27 (2007-08). 54-28 (2005-06), 53-29 (1999-2000), 51-31 (2000-01).

Playoff appearances (6): Reached Western Conference finals twice – 2005, 2006.

 Why they loved Marion

“He was the glue of those ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ teams that electrified the city.” – Suns fan Mario Bayne.

“It started with his palpable energy, which absolutely translated to his game. He was both flashy and did the dirty work. He flew in for rebounds, ran the floor, finished Nash lobs and was a multi-positional defender. And I think the funky shot mechanics actually made him distinct with casual fans. He was such a great complement to Nash and Amar’e because he was versatile and stuffed the stat sheet.” – Mizell.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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