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The story behind how the Phoenix Suns got their name -- and the mother who picked it

Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 14, 2021

PHOENIX — In 1968, gas cost $0.34 per gallon, the Arizona Livestock show was the biggest event in town, and the city just learned it was getting its first professional basketball team.

To build community interest, the team's new general manager Jerry Colangelo held a contest in The Arizona Republic newspaper to decide what the inaugural basketball team's name would be.

Everyone who submitted a potential name would receive a free ticket to an upcoming game. The winner, however, would receive season tickets and the $1,000 grand prize.

Michael King said his whole family submitted potential names to the contest.

More than 28,000 potential names were submitted, according to newspaper archives, including the saguaros, scorpions, tumbleweeds. But, one name was clearly more popularly than the rest.

More than 300 people submitted some version of the "Suns," so Colangelo literally picked the contest winner by pulling a name from a hat.

It was Selinda King, a mother and employee with the state's health department, who won the honor of naming the team.

"I remember two men from the team came to the house and said she won," said Michael King, Selinda's son.

He said his mom wasn't necessarily a basketball fan, but he and his brother were, and he suspects that's why his mom entered the contest in the first place, right along with him, his dad, and his brother.

"The season tickets were right behind the bench. She hardly went to any games at all. I went to every home game," he said.

Selinda was honored during a ceremony at the Phoenix Country Club where the Suns' name and logo were unveiled. Her picture was also featured on future game tickets.

Michael said it's a unique honor that is forever part of his late mother's legacy -- and the Suns'.

"When we're gone my son and daughter will have it. It'll always be there. It's something we're quite proud of," he said.