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Phoenix Suns fans connect with Devin Booker's Hispanic heritage

Devin Booker is one of only two active NBA players with Mexican roots. His connection to the Latino community is resonating with many across the Valley.

PHOENIX — There is something special about Phoenix Suns fans.

In 1993, they came out in masses and celebrated in the streets when the team lost their bid to an NBA Championship.

Now, the fan base is bigger and better, with a diverse and cultural background brought together by multiple factors.

For years, the Valley’s oldest professional sports team tried to connect with the community in various forms.

One of those was with 'Los Suns'. A phrase that added a Spanish pronoun to the team's name.

The franchise’s goal was to tap into the Hispanic community, which accounts for a large portion of the Valley’s population.

The decade’s old phrase has resonated with Latinos ever since, but now as the team continues its quest for a 2021 Championship, it's Devin Booker’s Mexican heritage that is resonating with fans.

The 24-year-old guard grew up in Grand Rapids Michigan, born to a Black father and a Mexican-American mom.

His maternal grandfather was born and raised in Mexico but later migrated to the U.S. He instilled his Mexican traditions in Booker’s mother.

“Some of my favorite times as a child was my mom whipping up, you know, original Mexican dishes that she learned from her father or when we got the chance to visit my grandpa on the weekend,” Booker said in a Mexican Heritage month video the team made.

Booker was drafted by the Suns in 2015, it wasn’t until he came to La Finikera, that’s what Latinos call Phoenix, that he admitted he finally immersed himself in this side of his bloodline.

“When I was drafted to Phoenix, I finally got to see the Hispanic culture around me for the first time in my life, you drive around the city you see it, you look into the stands at the game and you see it, so that made me want to learn about myself because I just hadn’t been around it,” Booker said.

Being in Phoenix made him aware of his culture. As Suns fans have been made aware of his heritage, their support for the team and Booker, has grown.

“When he got here, he was ashamed, he was shy to say, ‘I don’t speak Spanish well,’” Arturo Ochoa said, the official Spanish broadcaster of the Phoenix Suns that is aired on La Mejor 106.5/1400AM. “He would get frustrated and say, ‘Because I am Latin blood.”

Ochoa has been doing the team’s Spanish play-by-play since the 2004-2005 season. He said that, although Latinos historically root for soccer teams, as the year’s gone by and with Booker on the roster, the fever for the Suns among Latinos has grown.

“The truth is that the Hispanic community identifies a lot with those aspects,” Ochoa said, referring to Booker being only one of two active NBA players with Mexican roots. “It has a certain draw of fans to the stadium.”

Booker has said his Mexican culture has taught him a lot about himself. Even though he didn’t fully grow up surrounded by the culture, he said it’s something that’s not too late to learn because at the end of the day it is part of him.

Along with learning more about his mother’s bloodline, Booker has also embraced other Mexican American aspects like the Chicano lowrider style.

On Game 1 of the playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Booker arrived at the arena in a 1971 Chevy Caprice with gold rims. He later published a video on his Instagram for his 4.2 million followers to see.

For die-hard fan Emmanuel Maldonado the connection is heartwarming.

“It’s beautiful and it’s great for Booker for accepting, not only embracing it but publicly sharing it,” Maldonado said. “That’s even better for the culture and for us growing up wanting to be like them.”

Seeing at least that small glimpse of his Mexican heritage on such a big stage is a victory of its own for Maldonado.

“It just shows us that no matter where you come from, we can all be united by something, in this case, it’s our bloodline and the sport,” Maldonado said.

Although news of Booker’s Latino heritage began to be known for the last several years, the Suns’ advancement in the finals, is helping amplify that fact.

“Living around my culture and getting to see it in the day-to-day, it’s a lot better, and being able to touch those types of communities in this area makes all this that much better,” Booker said.

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