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Robert Sarver announced he was selling the Suns one year ago today

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One year ago today, former Suns’ owner Robert Sarver announced his intention to sell the team after reports of racist, misogynist and sexist behavior within the organization.

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Sarver was first suspended for one year after the NBA concluded an investigation into him following ESPN’s Baxter Holmes story on his actions released on Nov. 4, 2021. Eight days into the suspension, Sarver put out a statement that he was beginning the process to sell the Suns and Mercury after over 17 years of owning the franchises.

Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million. Since he announced his intention to sell the Suns, a lot has changed for the franchise.

On Dec. 20, 2022, it was reported that Mat Ishbia, the multi-billionaire CEO of a Michigan-based mortgage lender, United Wholesale Mortgage, was closing in on a deal to buy the Suns and Mercury. Ishbia also has a basketball background, as he was a walk-on point guard at Michigan State from 1999-2002 under legendary coach Tom Izzo.

On Jan. 5, ESPN said that Ishbia’s purchase of the Suns would become official in the next coming weeks. The trade deadline happened to be just after those two weeks, and the Suns were basically handcuffed from making any moves because Sarver still had power over trades.

But on the night of Feb. 6, just three days before the deadline, Ishbia officially became the team’s owner with a 29-0 oweners’ vote. Right away Ishbia claimed that the then 29-26 Suns were a “championship-caliber team.”

However, Ishbia made arguably the biggest trade in NBA history late in the night on Feb. 8, one day before the deadline. The Suns acquired for Kevin Durant and TJ Warren from the Brooklyn Nets and sent away Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four first-round picks. The three players they sent away had been key pieces of their run to the NBA Finals in 2021.

Ishbia made himself clear just two days into his new gig. The Phoenix Suns will have a championship-caliber roster under his watch no matter what the expense to him is.

“I’m always trying to win, and I’m trying to win now,” Ishbia said at Durant’s introductory press conference on Feb. 21.

On Feb. 16, Sarver gave a $20,000 individual bonus to many team employees and also donated $5 million to the team’s charity as he said goodbye to the team.

On April 28, Ishbia and the Suns announced a revolutionary deal with 3TV/Arizona’s Family. The team would now be broadcasting games for free locally this upcoming season on this network instead of the troubling Bally Sports regional network. Recently, Ishbia gave out free antennas to help fans who did not have cable.

“We’re not focusing on money. We’re focusing on winning, success, and taking care of fans, taking care of the community,” Ishbia said after the deal. “What happens is you always end up making money. It always works out.”

The Suns did not end up fulfilling their championship goal, as they fell in the second round of the NBA Playoffs to the eventual NBA champion Denver Nuggets on May 12. During this series, Ishbia drew a technical foul on Nikola Jokic when he sold a shove from the Nuggets’ star center.

Just one day after the loss, Ishbia and the Suns parted ways with coach Monty Williams. Williams had been hired by the Suns in May 2019 and had led them to the 2021 NBA Finals, won the 2022 Coach of the Year and completely changed the culture from a losing to a winning team among many other achievements. 

On June 2, Ishbia and the Suns hired Frank Vogel to replace Williams. They also kept assistant coach Kevin Young, who many thought had a chance to be the Suns’ next head coach, on staff. Vogel, a defensive-minded head coach, comes to the Suns championship experience after winning the title in the NBA Bubble in 2020. Vogel has plenty of success in developing stars and big men after most notably coaching the Pacers from 2007-2016 and Lakers from 2019-2022.

Ishbia made another huge trade on June 16 when the team acquired three-time All-Star Bradley Beal, Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd (later traded to Grizzlies) from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, six second-round picks (2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028 and 2030) and four first-round pick swaps (2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030).

This will be the Suns’ first season without Paul since 2020. Paul helped the Suns reach new heights in his three seasons in the Valley. He was a big part of changing their future landscape to become a destination spot for players to want to come.

The NBA announced new rules to limit teams from spending too much money, but Ishbia clearly does not care. The trio of Beal, Booker, and Durant alone will be making $131 million which is $3 million under the $134 million salary cap cutoff this season. Currently, these three and Deandre Ayton are the team’s only four players who are not on veteran minimum contracts or below.

The Suns selected Toumani Camara out of Dayton with the team’s lone draft pick  (52nd overall) this offseason. They then signed seven players right away in free agency, getting mostly reliable players on cheap contracts. All in all, the Suns will feature 10 newcomers this upcoming season. 

That being said, the Suns only have seven returning players, highlighted by Booker, Durant and Ayton. Ishbia has built a roster unlike Suns’ fans have ever seen with all of the talent he has either kept or brought in.

On Aug. 30, Ishbia and the Suns announced a reimagined Ring of Honor, and they are set to induct Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion into it during the team’s home opener on Oct. 28 against the Jazz. 

Ishbia has already arguably done more for the franchise since his hiring in February than Sarver did in his entire career.

Now with training camp to begin on Oct. 3 and the season opener scheduled for Oct. 24, Suns fans are happy with ownership and expecting a championship from the team this season.

Phoenix Suns training camp to begin Oct. 3

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Brendan Mau is a Phoenix Suns insider and college sports reporter for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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