Skip to main content

1988-89 Phoenix Suns - Turnaround Season

It's been precisely three decades since one of the most memorable turnarounds for one team in NBA history.
The architect of the 1988-89 Phoenix Suns turnaround was Jerry Colangelo, who today serves as a special advisor to the Philadelphia 76ers.

After Suns posted 28-55 record in 1987-88, missing to make the NBA playoff from 1985 through 1988, and just after a drug scandal which involved a number of Suns players, Colangelo put together a group of investors which would take over the NBA franchise from Arizona in late 1987.

Their first major move in the player personnel department was bringing an explosive point guard Kevin Johnson, who saw limited playing time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Mark Price making the most of his opportunity to shine.

Another huge boost for head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was the signing of Tom Chambers, power forward who was the MVP of the 1987 NBA All-Star Game in Seattle. With Johnson, Chambers will immediately form one of the best point-guard - forward tandems in the League, alongside Utah's Stockton & Malone and Lakers' Magic & Worthy.
Both Chambers (25.7 ppg) and Johnson (12.2 apg) were voted into 1988/89 All-NBA Second Team.

On offense, rejuvenated Suns would mostly rely on both KJ and Tommy Gun athletic ability and scoring punch.
Outmatching the majority of NBA players at their positions they would also open more space for the players like veteran sharp-shooter Eddie Johnson, rookies Armon Gilliam and Dan Majerle and great shot blocker Mark West.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

FEATURED VIDEO LINK: Since '68 - The 1988 - '89 Season

After posting 55-27 regular-season record, in the 1989 postseason Suns will prove their overall strength - first sweeping the Denver Nuggets and then defeating Golden State Warriors by 4:1. In the Western Conference Finals, it would be Los Angeles Lakers, led by ingenious playmaking of Magic Johnson, who would end the great run by the Suns. One year later, in 1990 NBA play-off, in it would be the Suns returning the favor by beating the Lakers 4:1!

From today's perspective, it's intriguing to discuss the possible 1988-89 Suns advance into the 1989 NBA Finals, which would certainly make it more interesting. Just to remind you that in 1989 NBA finals Detroit Pistons won the ring relatively easy outmatching Lakers squad depleted by injuries to their starting guards - Magic Johnson and Byron Scott.

Without any exaggeration, it's obvious that with 1988-89 season the Suns organization set the great cornerstone for the success which followed - after 1989 postseason Suns would appear in twelve postseasons in the row!

Unforgettable Phoenix Suns season in 1988-89 was crowned by numerous season awards - Eddie Johnson was named the Sixth Man of the Year, Kevin Johnson was named the Most Improved Player and Jerry Colangelo was named the Team Executive of the Year.

Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.

Shaquille O’Neal speaking on the Ime Udoka scandal - “I was a serial cheater…I did it. I was the best at it”

Shaquille O’Neal speaking on the Ime Udoka scandal -“I was a serial cheater…I did it. I was the best at it”

O'Neal labeled himself as a serial cheater and explained how his foolish actions from earlier in his life ended up being one of the worst decisions he made

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, guard Jrue Holiday, and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs as part of the NBA Abu Dhabi Games

Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks will be the first NBA teams to play in Abu Dhabi

Phoenix Suns' forward Jae Crowder defending Chicago Bulls' star DeMar DeRozan

Can the Chicago Bulls make a trade for disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder?

Find out if the Chicago Bulls can acquire disgruntled Phoenix Suns small forward, Jae Crowder.

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan with Lonzo Ball

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan bracing for the entire season without Lonzo Ball

The Bulls are preparing themselves to be competitive while they wait on the health of starting guard Lonzo Ball. Here's what their head coach had to say about the matter.

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd

"You can't say, 'This is the way I would do it'" — Jason Kidd explains why he never forced his players to emulate his playing style

Kidd's experience on the Lakers coaching staff has proven to be extrememly valuable in his evolution as a coach.

Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon

Greg Anthony singles out the most underrated part of Hakeem Olajuwon's on-court skillset

Everyone praises Hakeem's footwork. Greg Anthony praised his God-given instincts for the game.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham and general manager Rob Pelinka

How the Los Angeles Lakers could take advantage of the NBA's new rule

The new NBA rule could benefit the Lakers if they implement a run-and-gun system.