**Author's Note: This article was written between games four and five of the the Suns 2008 opening round matchup with the Spurs. I'd like to preface this article by saying NEVERMIND**
Down 0-3, had someone told you Mike D’Antoni would be tossed from a must win Game Four, Amare Stoudemire would score only seven points, and Steve Nash would dish only four assists, you would’ve no doubt conceded the San Antonio sweep.
Phoenix indeed looked poised to accept the broom treatment from their arch nemesis going into Game Four, but one fabulously fickle Frenchman had other plans. Boris Diaw put the Suns on his back, locking up his French counterpart, Tony Parker, and willing Phoenix to victory.
Raja Bell even chimed in by matching his season high 27 points and playing a vital role in putting the clamps on Ginobili and the gang. The Suns finally showed up for the 2008 NBA Playoffs en route to a 105-86 route of the Spurs in Game Four of their first round matchup.
But after the ether of Game Four wore off for Suns fans, reality stared them dead in the face: No team in the history of the NBA has EVER come back from a 0-3 deficit in the Playoffs. Ever.
This daunting task before the Suns brought back memories of that fateful October Series in 2004 between the Yankees and Red Sox. Prior to that series, no team in MLB history had EVER come back from a 0-3 hole in the Playoffs. Ever.
In fact, there have been over 1,000 playoff series since the inception of the seven game series between the NHL, MLB, and NBA. Two NHL teams have accomplished the feat, one MLB team and zero NBA teams. That means the Suns have less than a .003% chance of winning this series.
As I waxed philosophically of what could be, I began to see similarities between the 2008 Phoenix Suns and 2004 Boston Red Sox. Let’s break them down:
- The Curse: Both teams suffer from curses involving arguably the most dominating players in the history of their respective sports. The Red Sox suffering from ‘The Curse of the Bambino’ stemming back to Boston’s sale of Babe Ruth's contract to the New York Yankees in 1920. The Suns have been haunted by ‘The Curse of the Coin Flip’ ever since losing out on the draft rights to Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabar to the Milwaukee Bucks after their inaugural season in 1968, despite having an 11 game lead on last place. From 1920 to 2004, the Yankees won 26 World Series titles to Boston’s zero. After the infamous coin flip, Alcindor led his teams to six NBA championships to Phoenix’s zero.
- The Arch Nemesis: Boston faced the New York Yankees, their most hated division rival in their 2004 Conference Series, a storied rivalry that has divided the North East Peninsula. The Suns face the San Antonio Spurs, a rivalry with much bad blood that gains more credence with every game. Both rivalries were one sided in the favor of the teams with all the rings who dawn black and white.
- The Proverbial Monkey on the Back: Not only did the Red Sox and Suns have to face their arch rivals, but they had to face teams who had consistently knocked them out of the post season. The year prior, both Boston and Phoenix were sent packing by the Yankees and Spurs. Both series were nail biters each team felt they should’ve won.
- Regular Season Dominance: Like the Red Sox, the Suns have enjoyed continued success in the regular season only to come up short in the Playoffs. Despite all of the playoff appearances between the two teams, there were a total of zero titles between them in a combined 126 seasons of play prior to Boston’s 2004 World Series Title.
- The Questionable Trade: In the 2003-2004 season, Boston traded several young talented players for the rights to Curt Schilling, a seemingly old, crusty, and slightly washed up veteran who had won a title with the ARIZONA Diamondbacks. In 2008, the Suns traded one of the best players in the game for Shaquille O’Neal, largely regarded by his piers to be well past his prime.
- The Salary Dump: The ’04 Red Sox in a payroll motivated move traded the rights to Tony Womack (a former ARIZONA Diamondback) to the St. Louis Cardinals, their eventual opponent in the World Series. In ’08, the Suns, in a cap related move, traded the rights to Kurt Thomas who eventually landed in San Antonio, the Suns opponent in this odyssey.
- The Elusive Division Title: The ’04 Red Sox finished two games back of the AL East title. The ’08 Suns finished two games back for the Pacific Division title.
- The Emergence of Role Players in Game Four: The Red Sox beat the Yankees, largely in part to the contributions in Game Four of players like Dave Roberts, Doug Mientkiewicz, Bill Mueller, and Orlando Cabrera. The ’08 Suns got break out performances from players like Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Gordon Giricek, and Brian Skinner. In both cases, defensive minded role players stepped up to the challenge.
- The Enigma: Both teams have an enigmatic player that both teammates and fans have struggled to understand and relate to. Both men possess insane natural talent and both men are favorites of the media for their quirky soundbites: Manny Ramirez and Shaquille O’Neal.
- The Karma: In 1976, the Phoenix Suns lost the NBA Championship to the Boston Celtics. In Game Five of that series, what is largely considered the Greatest Game of All Time, with the score tied and only a few ticks left on the clock in the first of three overtimes, the Celtics called a timeout they did not have. Although the infraction was blatant and done right in front of the Ref’s eyes, no technical foul was called. The Celtics went on to win that game and eventually the NBA title in what turned out to be the pivotal game of the Series. The city of Boston carries karmic debt to the city of Phoenix. A little of that Boston good fortune can and should be spared.
Believe. Believe. Believe.