The Phoenix Suns sold their NBA G League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, to the Detroit Pistons. To add insult to injury, the NAZ Suns will be playing games in Phoenix instead of their home of Prescott, which has hosted the affiliate since 2016.
On the surface, this may be a move that occurred due to financial impacts from COVID-19. However, when you look into Arizona professional sports through recent years, there seems to be a fading interest from the state’s residents, and the higher-ups have done little to improve the state of the franchises.
According to attendance statistics from ESPN, not one Arizona-based pro sports team cracked the top half of average home attendance. The Diamondbacks were the closest to hitting the top half as they were 17th out of 30 teams in 2019. The Suns were ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams when fans were allowed to attend games earlier in the 2019-20 season, The Cardinals were 27th of 32 NFL teams in attendance during the 2019 season, and The Coyotes were 28th of 31 NHL teams.
It also does not help that only one Arizona pro sports team has advanced to the postseason since the D-backs in 2017. The Cardinals have not reached the playoffs since 2015. The Coyotes, thanks to the newly formatted Stanley Cup Playoffs for this season, advanced to their first postseason since 2012, and the Suns have failed to reach the playoffs since 2010.
Arizona sports have two major issues: Fan interest is low and the teams are not performing.
There have been numerous rumors of these teams relocating to different areas. Let’s not forget that the Coyotes lost their general manager John Chayka during the NHL season’s pause, after he was pursuing a job with the New Jersey Devils.
How about the time when 90-year-old Greta Rogers roasted Suns owner Robert Sarver for costing the city hundreds of millions of dollars for renovations at Talking Stick Resort Arena? “He’s so tight, he squeaks when he walks,” Rogers said to Phoenix City Council.
Arizona professional sports are a train wreck, which is a shame because the state boasts some of the best sporting facilities with a plethora of baseball stadiums that not only host spring training for Major League Baseball, but also inspire youth to pursue their baseball dreams through numerous annual tournaments.
It’s time for a culture shock in Arizona, if they want to save their professional sports teams. A few great minds need to take ownership of these dwindling franchises to keep them in the state. The NAZ Suns may just be a developmental team, but with how easy they were sold and shipped, it’s only a matter of time before the next team is off to another city if no change happens.