‘Book is that dude’: The six-year rise of Devin Booker

  • Senior writer for ESPN.com
  • Spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News

THE DRILL ITSELF is pretty standard as far as draft workouts go. A player starts on offense and stays on offense as long as he keeps scoring. As soon as he misses, he rotates over to defense. As soon as he allows a bucket, he rotates out and the next player rotates in — it’s a game of one-on-one. The Phoenix Suns routinely used it as a part of their draft-evaluation process.

When Devin Booker got into the knockout line in 2015, he was just the latest prospect the Suns were looking at with the 13th pick. Then, a glimpse.

“He just kept scoring,” former general manager Ryan McDonough recalled. “Nobody could stop him. He just kept scoring and scoring to the point that we were like, ‘OK, we’ve seen enough. This is really impressive. Let’s move on to the next drill. We only have an hour or so and there’s a number of things we want to do.'”

Booker wasn’t having it. With a few four-letter words, he let the Suns’ brass know there was no way he was ending the drill until someone stopped him.

“I think he was 18 at the time,” McDonough says. “And for an 18-year-old kid to say ‘F that’ to a group of executives and coaches — we were a little surprised by it.

“But we also loved it.”

Booker didn’t start in his lone season at the University of Kentucky — he wasn’t even projected as a lottery pick when he initially declared for the 2015 draft. But after averaging 27 points in his first NBA playoffs and scoring 27 points in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals, Devin Booker is not going to leave the stage until someone stops him.

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