Quick facts: Founded: 1968 Arena: Talking Stick Arena Division Championships: 6(1981, 1993, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2007) Pacific Division: 6(1981, 1993, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2007) NBA Finals: 2(1975,1993) NBA Titles: none Playoffs: 29 Best Season: 2004-05 62-20 .756 1992-93 62-20 .756 Worst Season: 1968-69 16-66 .195
Following the merger between the BAA and NBL the NBA had one western team, the Denver Nuggets, but the Nuggets left the NBA after one season and it took another 11 seasons before the Lakers moved to Los Angeles and became the lone NBA outpost in the west.
By the late 1960s the NBA began to expand westward. First to Seattle, than San Diego and in 1963 the relocation of the Warriors to San Francisco. Still the NBA needed more teams out west to even out travel schedules, so the choice was made to expand to other cities.
Phoenix was an unlikely choice because of its remote location and the city was small, but still growing. What helped the cities cause was that the rival ABA began to expand in the west as well and placed teams in other western cities such as Denver, St Louis and Salt Lake City.
Phoenix and Milwaukee were awarded expansion teams starting in the 1968-69 season. The city quickly showed it could support an NBA franchise as it become one of the most successful franchises in the NBA.
Still, despite their success, the Suns remained the only professional sports franchise in the state of Arizona until 1988 when the NFL's Cardinals move to Phoenix. The Cardinals were followed by the Coyotes of the NHL and the MLB's Diamondback.
On the court the Suns enjoyed as much success as anyone not named Boston, LA or Detroit, but it was the off the court issues which plagued the Suns and nearly brought the franchise down.
The NBA had a drug problem as early as the 1970s but the league was working on a way to get rid of it. In 1987 the Maricopa County Attorney's Office indicted 13 people on drug-related charges, three of whom were active Suns players: James Edwards, Jay Humphries and Grant Gondrezick.
The prosecution's star witness was another Suns player, their all-star guard Walter Davis. No defendant ever went to trial in the case as all 3 accused players received diversionary programs and Humphries and Edwards went on to have solid NBA careers. Gondrezick's career, however, would never recover. He struggled with cocaine addiction and was out of the league before the 1990 season.
Most people see this drug case as nothing but a witch hunt because of the big named involved in the case. A few of the cases have even been overturned. Still, it lead to increased drug testing in the NBA.
Tragedy would strike the Suns again in 1987 when center Nick Vanos was amongst 148 people killed when Northwestern Flight 255 crashed upon takeoff in Detroit.