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On This Date in Sports November 7, 1992

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It’s a new era in the Valley of the Sun, as the Phoenix Suns play their first official game at the American West Arena. The Suns who are in their 25th season previously played Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.  The new arena is modern and larger, fitting 5,000 more fans than the previous venue. The game also marks Charles Barkley’s debut with the Suns, scoring a game-high 37 points as the Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 111-105.

When the NBA expanded in 1968 they looked to stake new ground adding teams to Phoenix and Milwaukee a year after the Seattle Supersonics and San Diego Rockets made their debut. The Phoenix Suns drew the short end of the expansion straw as the Milwaukee Bucks landed the rights to Lew Alcindor who would later become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Suns would play competitive basketball through much of their history-making the NBA Finals in 1976. However, they never had all the pieces together at the same time to make a big run at the NBA Championship.

As the Suns prepared to open their new arena, the Suns who had been a top team in the Western Conference for several years, thanks to players like Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle made the bold move of acquiring NBA All-Star Charles Barkley, a member of the Dream Team. To get Barkley the Suns sent Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang to the Philadelphia 76ers on hand. In addition, the Suns signed free agent sharpshooter Danny Ainge.

The moves all worked out for the Phoenix Suns, who had the best season in franchise history, posting the best record in the NBA at 62-20. In his first season in the desert, Charles Barkley had the best season of his career, winning the NBA MVP with 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. The Suns would go on to play in the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. Once again they would come up short, falling the dynastic Chicago Bulls in six games, on John Paxon’s three-pointers. However, it was perhaps the toughest NBA Finals that the Bulls faced during the Michael Jordan era.