If the name didn’t already give away the NBA identity behind Arizona’s new D-League team, its new logo and jerseys sure did the job.
Original Suns fans from the 1960s, 70s and 80s – many of which were in attendance at the Prescott Valley Event Center on Tuesday night – surely recognized the Northern Arizona Suns logo once it was revealed. The front-facing purple-and-orange sunburst is reminiscent of the secondary logo Phoenix’s original sports team used for over its first two decades. Its 16 distinct points go hand-in-hand with the current calendar year, in which the Phoenix Suns purchased its D-League team (previously, the Bakersfield Jam) and moved it inside its own state’s borders
Younger fans are similarly drawn to the jerseys, which reflect the current threads worn by the downtown Phoenix version of Suns basketball. The forward-slanting, modern type-face boasts the same font, as do the jersey numbers. The biggest difference is simply the name: a large “NAZ” on the home, white jersey, and a small orange-typed “Northern Arizona” above “Suns” on the chest of the road uniform.
For Northern Arizona Suns President Chris Presson, the newest D-League identity does justice to its NBA partner and community.
“Seeing this color combo and seeing the ‘NAZ,’ the sunburst and the affiliation with the year the team was created,” he told the crowd of 350 fans in attendance, “it just all came together in a way that I think this community will really migrate towards.”
That transaction not only better facilitates the Phoenix Suns’ player development process, but also injects life into the new team’s host community of Prescott Valley. The city has been starved for professional sports since its former hockey team went defunct. Now, its citizens will have a permanent athletic resident at the Prescott Valley Event Center, located in the heart of the city, just a 90-minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“Everybody that comes up here, they can’t believe how nice the venue is,” said Presson, who also serves as team president of the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. “I think our players and our coaches will be happy about that. Once you get people in here, it’s a loud building. I think that’s something that will resonate with our players. In turn, I think our players will migrate toward the community. In this market, that’s truly what it’s all about it.”
Now that market will be reenergized behind a team with an identity, one that resonates closely with its NBA affiliate. Many of the fans in attendance on Tuesday sported Suns gear both old and new, and they enjoyed the opportunity to meet and greet with Suns alumni, including Ring of Honor member Tom Chambers, Tim Kempton and Stephen Hunter.
The Suns Gorilla was also on hand, of course, and was excited to learn that he will help select the NAZ Suns’ own mascot for the upcoming season, which tips off in November.
Perhaps most exciting to local sports diehards is the prospect of seeing NBA talent up close. Recent Suns first-round draft picks such as Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren logged significant time in the D-league.And with Phoenix likely holding four of the top 35 picks in this summer’s draft, the odds are good that some of next year’s rookies will don an NAZ uniform in 2016-17, as well.