He was known as the Oklahoma Kid coming out of college, but his
heart has been in Phoenix for almost a quarter century. In the
spring of 1975 Alvan Adams chose to skip his senior year at
Oklahoma and enter the NBA draft. The next fall the 6'9",
220-pound rookie was the starting center for the Suns. In
Phoenix he was reunited with coach John MacLeod, who had
recruited Adams, a standout at Putnam City High in Oklahoma
City, to the Sooners but had left for the NBA after Adams's
freshman year. Despite his relatively small stature, Adams
excelled in his first season with the Suns, averaging 19.0
points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists en route to becoming the
NBA Rookie of the Year and leading the Suns to the Finals for
the first time. There they fell to the Boston Celtics in six games.
Recalling the aftermath of the Game 6 loss, Adams, 44, says, "I
remember looking around at the old guys in the locker room--guys
like Pat Riley--and feeling sorry for them because they only had
a year or two left. I thought I'd have lots of chances to win
the championship, but in 12 years with Phoenix I never got back
to the Finals. Magic Johnson showed up." Adams showed up too: He
remains the Suns' career leader in games played (988), rebounds
(6,937) and steals (1,289). Phoenix retired his number 33 in 1988.
Adams's job today includes making sure the rafters that support
his retired jersey are up to par. As senior vice president and
assistant general manager of Phoenix-based Sports and
Entertainment Services, Adams serves as the facility manager for
the Suns' home, America West Arena, as well as Bank One
Ballpark. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Sara, and their
children, Justin, 18, and Emily, 16.
The Kid recently took care of some unfinished business. Adams
had been several courses shy of a degree in letters (a major
that encompasses history, philosophy, literature and languages)
when he left college. He knew that his mother, Ilse, a college
German professor who died when Alvan was a senior in high
school, would have liked to have seen him graduate. He began
taking courses in the summer of 1993, and last May he graduated
Phi Beta Kappa from Oklahoma. "I told my kids, You always have
time for something you really want," says Adams. "I decided I
really wanted to finish."
November 30, 1998
"I thought I'd have lots of chances to win a title," Adams says,
"but then Magic Johnson showed up."