PHOENIX — Phoenicians may already know the strange story behind the Suns' seemingly random mascot, the gorilla. But those new to the bandwagon likely don't.
“Yeah, I was the OG," said Henry Rojas.
By OG, Henry Rojas means "Original Gorilla."
“If I had to perform here I probably would have had cardiac arrest three-fourths of the way up doing Rocky so thank god it was the Memorial Coliseum," Rojas said outside of Phoenix Suns Arena in downtown Phoenix.
Rojas was working for a telegram service back in 1980 and someone randomly hired him to go to the then Suns arena, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, dressed in a gorilla suit.
Rojas, a Maryvale native, admits he was nervous and slightly embarrassed as he sat outside the arena in his beat-up car. However, once he got inside, he found himself rooting for his home team like usual and dancing to music throughout the game, and fans noticed.
Fans continued to hire him to come back in the gorilla suit following that first appearance, Rojas said. Suns management had even extended him an offer to make his relationship with the team official by the end of the season, calling him the missing link.
“Weird stuff happened when I was out there," Rojas said. "I would polish the three-point line when we needed one shot and they’d hit the shot!”
Rojas never expected the gorilla to stick. But now, decades and two gorillas later, the legendary mascot is as big a part as ever of a Suns game.
While Rojas has passed off the suit to others, his love for the Suns remains, especially this season. The team never made it to a championship during Rojas' time with the team throughout the 1980s. He believes that may change this year.
“There’s a very youthful energy and them having Chris Paul bring the maturity is I think what’s different," Rojas said.
The Valley is pouring with passion after an eleven-year postseason drought, which is something Rojas believes will be a difference-maker.
“The energy in there makes a big difference. It has an impact," Rojas said.
The Valley is rallying for game five back at home in an arena that will be close to maximum capacity for the first time in more than a year.
The "OG" has some advice for fans heading to Tuesday night's game.
“Be uninhibited in your cheering. When they get behind you can feel that lull," Rojas said. "Great fans stick with it."
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