By Brian Taylor
In the wake of last night’s beatdown at the Verizon Center, where the Phoenix Suns mauled my Wizards, it got me to thinking about who should be my next “Hey!” subject. After watching some more YouTube classics (I was watching the Bulls vs. Suns from 1993), my idea came to mind.
“Thunder” Dan Majerle.
We have to go back a few years to really understand Dan’s story, coming out of Central Michigan (a mid-major) Dan Majerle didn’t get a lot of press. Small schools in the late 80’s were usually an afterthought when it came to pro scouting, but Dan turned some heads. In 1988, the big names that came out were Danny Manning, Rik Smits and Mitch Richmond. Missouri’s Derrick Cheivous (known for being the first to rock the Band-Aid, Nelly-style), was expected to be the Suns’ second pick at number 14. Amidst a chorus of boos from the crowd, the Suns went out on a limb and selected Daniel Lewis Majerle. Legendary Suns Coach Cotton Fitzimmons told the crowd that day that they’d be sorry they ever booed Dan, because Cotton knew what a steal they got in the draft (after all, he was an Olympian with the 88’ team).
And what a steal it was for Phoenix!
Dan’s rookie year was a relatively quiet one, but the addition of Kevin Johnson was what really elevated Dan’s game. Standing a 6’6”, he was a slasher and a vicious dunker with guys like Maunte Bol included in his list of posterizations. Everyone remembers the pivotal part he played in the 1993 Finals against Jordan and the Bulls. Nobody really knows statwise, how he helped hold the Suns together though, as Dan set the records for most minutes played without a personal foul, most minutes played without a turnover and most threes made. You name it, Dan did it. Dunks, defense and later in his career, three-point sniping were his specialties.
As Dan got older, he wised up and realized that all the Thunderous dunking was going to wreak havoc on his knees (see Iverson’s dunk stats from 1996, compared to now). But instead of being content with losing the hops, Dan fine tuned his three-point skills to become even more of a threat on the ball, getting the rock with screens from KJ and Barkley. In 1994, Dan won tournament gold with Dream Team II, teaming up with other NBA stars such as Joe Dumars, Alonzo Mourning and Shaq.
In a knee-jerk trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Suns sent Dan to the Eastern Conference, where he teamed up with the likes of Terrell Brandon, Chris Mills and Tyrone Hill. That situation didn’t last long, as Dan was a free agent after that 1995 season to sign with Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.
Down in South Beach, Majerle got his groove back, becoming an integral part of those late 90’s Heat teams that would rumble with the Knicks and Bulls.
Dan played five seasons in Miami before returning to Phoenix, where it all started to retire in 2002.
Majerle was not only a great ballplayer, but also a huge fixture in the Phoenix community owning one of the state’s most popular sports bars. Here’s a clip if you want to check out Dan’s restaurant, “Majerle’s”.