Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game against the Boston Celtics at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 18, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
We are a basketball town at heart. We are cursed by our first true love.
Valley basketball fans have been victimized by a coin flip, a drug scandal and David Stern. By a great owner who sold too soon. By winning the No. 1 pick and saddling up to the wrong horse. And now this.
Devin Booker is not an All-Star. Not among the 12 players selected to represent the Western Conference. Really?
He is a throwback to a time in sports history when All-Star snubs were actually a thing, a yearly occurrence. Few have seemed this egregious.
Booker is having a monster season, adjusting his game, sharing the wealth, suiting the needs of a new head coach. He’s done so after NBA media ringleader, Bill Simmons, claimed he wasted an offseason by not playing for Team USA. After being virally mocked over the summer, when he complained about being double-teamed in a pickup game full of NBA players. Meanwhile, the analytics crowd has gone silent, no longer able to scoff at his efficiency numbers.
Yet three players of lesser value just made the list of Western Conference reserves: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram. By my vote, Booker currently ranks as the 15th best player in the NBA. And he still can’t get the recognition he deserves.
It’s a cruel joke. And just what the Suns didn’t need.
An All-Star berth should’ve been validation for us and affirmation for him. A tangible sign that the Suns and their franchise player are heading in the right direction. Proof that our luck must be changing.
It would’ve given Booker an enormous platform, a chance to shine on one of the biggest stages. He’s done it in Boston. He did it in Mexico City. He’s done it during a final matchup with Kobe Bryant. He did it while winning a 3-point shooting contest on All-Star Weekend 2018, netting a record 20 shots in the second round.
Who knows what Booker might’ve done had the Suns actually made the playoffs in any of his first four seasons as a professional. Alas, who knows what he might’ve done in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
Instead, he is digesting more disappointment and swallowing more disapproval, just like the rest of us. This snub only fuels the perception that nothing good can happen for a NBA star in Phoenix, and here’s why that matters:
NBA players are currently living in an era of self-empowerment, where stars have far too much control and influence. They can force trades just by turning into malcontents.
Like the buttercups they’ve become, they’re paying too much attention to their own personal happiness.
Booker has never been like that. He is a true stoic. He is serious and diligent in his professional pursuits. He is grateful to be in a market that truly loves its NBA franchise, along with Al McCoy and the Gorilla.
The last thing he needs is more disappointment. Someone getting in his ear. Convincing him that Phoenix is a dead-end market, referencing the All-Star Game snub as proof.
Seriously. Who could argue now?
For too long, Booker has been penalized for being the best player on a bad team. Too many smart people have turned ignorant in the judgment of him, wondering why he hasn’t won more basketball games along the way. They don’t understand the trash that has surrounded him, from the coaching turnover to organizational dysfunction to #TheTimeline that gave him clueless kids as teammates.
He bears responsibility for none of it.
An All-Star berth would’ve proven to Booker that he is not toiling in obscurity. That he’s not underrated and underappreciated and blamed for things out of his control.
Instead, they gave him more disrespect. More fuel. More reason to leave at the earliest convenience.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.