Don’t let the fact that he can’t legally drink fool you – Devin Booker can throw down on the court. Two summers ago, Booker had barely earned the right to vote when he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns out of the University of Kentucky. An impressive rookie season saw the 6-foot-6 shooting guard average 13.8 points per game, by far the brightest spot in an otherwise dismal season for the 23-59 team. Along the way, Booker became the third youngest player ever to score 30 points in one game, and the fourth youngest to reach 1,000 points total, cementing his reputation in NBA circles as the league’s next great volume scorer. His plans for the big 2-0 in late October? “Beating the Golden State Warriors.” For all that swagger, it might be easy to forget this is a kid who can’t yet grow a beard like teammate Tyson Chandler. Not that he’d want to, he insists. It’s just not his style.
YOU’VE BEEN LABELED AS SOMETHING OF A FRANCHISE SAVIOR. DO YOU EVER FEAR HAVING TOO MUCH CONFIDENCE?
I always felt that being confident was half the battle. If you’re not going to believe in yourself, nobody’s going to believe in you. And I figured that out at a young age. I knew it was all up to me. You know, your parents can want you to be something, your friends can want you to be something, but if you actually don’t believe you can be that person then you [never will be].
HAVING ESTABLISHED YOUR OFFENSIVE BONA FIDES, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO TAKE YOUR GAME TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
I’d say be a two-way player. And that’s offense and defense. So you know my first time around, going against a lot of the guys last year, it was new – guarding new people. I struggled at times. Just knowing people’s tendencies, knowing the difference between someone that likes to go left or someone that likes to go right... Last year, I went around and played against everybody twice, so I feel like this next time around, I’ll have a better understanding.
DO YOU STILL SEE YOURSELF AS YOUNG BLOOD OR ARE YOU READY TO ASSUME A LEADERSHIP ROLE WITH THIS NEW INFLUX OF YOUNG PLAYERS, INCLUDING YOUR FORMER KENTUCKY TEAMMATE AND “BFF” TYLER ULIS?
A little bit of both. I feel like I’m a leader for the younger guys… but I’m still learning from Tyson [Chandler], Leandro [Barbosa], Jared [Dudley], everybody. You know we have a lot of great experience around the program – coaching staff and players – so I’m trying to be a sponge to that, listen to everything that they say.
YOUR INSTAGRAM IS A VERITABLE FASHION LOOK-BOOK... MAYBE NOT SURPRISING, SINCE YOUR MIDDLE NAME IS ARMANI. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR FASHION INSPO?
It started visiting my dad in Italy. [Dad, former NBA guard Melvin Booker, played professionally in Europe for more than a decade.] That was before everybody went with the more tapered look, skinny-leg pants – I feel like I was one of the first to do it ’cause I went over to Europe and saw them doing it and I liked their style. So with my dad, I like to kind of think of him as my stylist... I like to experiment a lot, have fun with it. That’s why I like fashion – you can be yourself with it... That’s who I was named after – Giorgio Armani – and I actually had a chance to meet him, when I went over to Italy to watch my dad play.
YOU’RE FROM MICHIGAN BUT HAVE LIVED IN THE SOUTH AS WELL. WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON COMING TO PHOENIX?
It was hot, that was my first thought. Right when I got off the plane [last June], it was like 115. It was tough, but everyone kept telling me, “Just wait...” They were right. Nine months out of the year, the weather’s perfect, man. I can imagine myself living here forever, buying a house here... I don’t know about the summer. Summers are tough, but luckily our season matches up where we can be out of town during the summer. But the weather’s nice, the people are really nice, there’s a lot to do, but at the same time it’s definitely low key.
SO ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IT WON’T BE A WHITE CHRISTMAS SINCE YOUR FAMILY IS COMING OUT HERE FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
I just love being around family... I went from getting presents from Santa to being Santa really quickly, which I’m fine with. It’s about making people smile.
Visit phoenixmag.com/web-extras/ for an extended Q&A with Booker.
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