The Phoenix Suns have finally clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Currently, as the number two seed in the NBA Western Conference, they are sitting above championship favorites such as the LA Lakers, and LA Clippers, while holding a better winning percentage than the Brooklyn Nets. However, the Suns need more credit for their undeniable effort and unremitting perseverance. Among the talented group of players, floor generals, and shooters, one player stands out the most. That player is Devin Booker.
As an infant, Devin grew up in the city of Grandville, Michigan, alongside his parents. His father, Melvin Booker, was an ex-NBA player who introduced Devin to basketball at a young age. Later on, Devin would spend time in his father's hometown of Moss Point, Mississippi, where he attended Moss Point High School. There, he thrived as a player under the tutelage of his father, and in 2014, he was invited to play in the McDonald's All-American Game, a conclave of America's top high school talent.
Ranked 18th, below the names of Justise Winslow, D'Angelo Russell, and Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker decided to take his talents to the University of Kentucky, where he was a "one-and-done."
Upon being picked 13th by the Phoenix Suns in the 2015 NBA Draft, Devin became the face of the franchise. Among his accolades, Devin gained the respect of many players around the league, including prolific superstar and basketball icon, Kobe Bryant.
In only Devin's rookie year, he was the third-youngest player to score over 30 points in a game, and fourth-youngest to score over 1,000 points in their first season. On March 24th, 2017, at the age of 20, Devin Booker scored a heroic 70 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics, an event that marked the zenith of his career at the time. Before then, Booker's predecessor was Kobe Bryant, who scored 81 points in 2006.
Currently, in only his 6th season in the NBA, Devin is averaging 25.5 points per game, along with 4.3 assists, a huge improvement from his rookie year.
This leap casts huge optimism for Suns' fans, as Devin's road ahead is only beginning. This year, with 11-time All-Star, Chris Paul, veteran power, Jae Crowder, and a strong young core in Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, and Cameron Johnson, the Sun's road ahead is very promising. Devin's growth will continue with the presence of Paul, an able mentor to Booker. Paul's ability to find the open man on the court will unlatch many opportunities for Booker to take the shot. Playing alongside experienced veterans will foster Booker's growth both as a player and as an individual. Chris Paul's demeanor and presence towards Booker in aiding him with advice and life lessons will allow the overall team chemistry to improve substantially.
Finally, Devin's work ethic has been on full display ever since his college years. He was continuously forced to improve his game in order to show scouts his true potential. Despite not being a starter at Kentucky, Booker was still motivated to grow alongside others. This demonstrates his maturity, an attribute NBA teams drool upon.
In the months leading up to the draft, Booker was brought in for a pre-draft workout by both the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns.
At the training facility in Miami, coach Eric Spoelstra and Heat president Pat Riley were stunned by his performance. However, Spoelstra also remembered how "[Devin] wanted to know the work ethic" of the team, also commenting on how "[Booker] was really impressive" (Mannix, 2020). This encounter truly displays Devin's longing for a tight-knit and hardworking community, something the Phoenix Suns organization has.
In the coming years, Devin Booker will undoubtedly be one of the league's best players. Not only will he grow alongside experienced individuals, but Booker will also be propelled forward by his constant grit and "mamba mentality."