June 7, 1976
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, Use, 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."