We Made a Phoenix Suns Championship Playlist

We Made a Phoenix Suns Championship Playlist
Benjamin Leatherman
click to enlarge BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Benjamin Leatherman

For the first time in almost 30 years, the Phoenix Suns are in the NBA Finals. And with the team up 2-1 in the series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Suns fans could conceivably be celebrating their first-ever championship as soon as Saturday. So, to ensure the future champs celebrate the right way, we've put together a playlist. This collection of R&B jams, experimental noise-punk, '80s soft-rock ballads, and hip-hop anthems was carefully curated to maximize the sentiments for this squad's franchise-defining achievement. Go Suns!

CeCe Peniston, 'Finally'

Is this 1991 dance-R&B anthem a little too on the nose? Sure — it’s been the go-to song for grand awakenings and long-awaited happenings since its release. But there’s something powerful about this track, and the cathartic release of past worries and doubt is unmatched in the realm of pop music. So it’s only fitting that it becomes a central part of the Suns’ campaign in the NBA Finals, a jam for kicking away the struggles of yesteryear and celebrating a triumphant new future. Even if this weren’t a bit of hometown synergy — Peniston moved to the Valley as a teen — this extra bright pop gem aligns with Phoenix's recent celebratory vibes.

Smino,  'Rice & Gravy'

Not even his extra-long name has kept Giannis Antetokounmpo from becoming a favorite among rappers. The Milwaukee Bucks’ star forward appears in a slew of popular songs, including those from Nicki Minaj, DaBaby, and Reason. So, it seems only right to include a song from another Antetokounmpo-referencing rapper, St. Louis's own Smino, for a little playful poking. But including "Rice & Gravy" isn’t just a delightfully petty move; it’s a profound track about clinging to one’s roots while tackling your dreams and growing an empire. It’s a nice image for the Suns to perpetuate, with the local boys doing good for their hometown without comprising those pillars of hard work and dedication. That, and their perpetually fresh uniforms, of course.

Hans Olson, 'Phoenix Boogie'

We get that blues rock may not be the most obvious, or even best-suited fit, for major league basketball. But Hans Olson is a special case, and since he moved here in the early 1970s, he’s made the Valley a destination for truly earnest and soulful music. As such, he expertly portrays a sense of commitment, passion, and grit that fits nicely with the image of the Suns. Still, it's a mostly silly tune, bordering on the overtly cheesy, a reminder that for as far as we’ve come together, Phoenix is still a little weird and wild. It’s this combined, slightly uneven image that actually defines our city, and by extension, informs what makes the Suns such a truly unique club.

RiFF RAFF, 'Chris Paul'

The Bucks may rely on the aforementioned Antetokounmpo, but the Suns have Chris Paul. The celebrated point guard has been pivotal to this team’s rise to the finals (not to mention we’re his first shot at finally playing for a championship team). Paul may not have the sheer number of songs about and/or referencing his prowess, but he does have this unsung gem from RiFF RAFF. Aside from lyrics about "neon python suplex" and references to Wilt Chamberlain and jump shots, the song's chorus is the irritatingly catchy "I can hit the mall and ball like Chris Paul." Will this tune ever win a Grammy? No way. But does it make for the kind of crowd-stirring anthem that all championship teams and players deserve? For sure.

Stan Bush, 'The Touch'

If you were slightly puzzled at the inclusion of CeCe Peniston, you may be doubly perplexed as to why we've included Stan Bush. "The Touch" is a song featured prominently in 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie, which makes it among the cheesiest songs from the cheesiest decades. Still, those aren’t deficits; the sheer bizarreness of this soft-rock gem makes it perfect for the Suns. It exemplifies the spunky, longshot mentality that defines Phoenix sports, and it remains deeply moving despite how goofy the track may be. Seriously, try to stop the goosebumps from forming as you hear, "You know that when things get too tough / You got the touch."

Sun City Girls, 'The Flower'

In a list with some rather questionable choices, this is by and far the absolute weirdest song. Nothing about the hugely experimental, sometimes off-putting music of Sun City Girls has anything to do with sports (or even anything in reality, if we're being honest). Yet amid all the insanity are some genuinely profound lyrics, like "Explode into the sky" or "You will come and grow." What seems like random art-rock slam poetry is just as inspiring as any Jock Jams collection while also speaking to the weird life magic permeating our wonderful little desert. It doesn't have to make sense to work, and this song, when used with the truest intentions, is an anthem for our brand of underdog winners and unsung heroes.

Shawn Wasabi, 'Burnt Rice'

If we’ve made nothing clear so far, it’s that the Suns would be a breath of fresh air as league champions. They’re not another destiny squad, and that kind of perspective could be a kick in the bum for basketball in general. Even if it only meant that folks would be more accepting of crazier musical selections, like this totally bonkers, DayGlo-colored banger from DJ/producer Shawn Wasabi. "Burnt Rice" is what a true jock jam would sound like if it was recorded by 12 DJs collectively tripping on margaritas and peyote. It's that very nontraditional nature that makes it a perfect choice for an era with the Suns as league champs. Plus, imagine watching a game and this oddball song suddenly blasting through the arena's loudspeakers.

Gorillaz , 'Feel Good, Inc.'

We could just include this song because we in the Valley really love gorillas. But there's so much more to this choice of championship music. No song, especially one exploring the dangers of "herd mentality," and as sung by an actual cartoon band, has any right being so damned catchy and infectious. Similarly, there's no reason, especially after some three decades, that we'd suddenly embark on a Cinderella-style story to the NBA Finals (except for, you know, all the hard work and sacrifice by the actual team). This is, at the end of the day, a song about facing down the big scary world and finding victory if only in that you retain some humor and general awareness. Also, attending a citywide championship party would certainly feel good, huh?

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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan