The Phoenix Suns will celebrate Veterans day on Saturday night with APS Military Appreciation Night. The team will honor all who have fought for our freedom throughout that game, including World War II Veteran Ray Lemons.
Lemons joined the United States Navy at the age of 17 with special parental permission. He joined three of his brothers, who were also deployed around the world. Lemons asked to serve on a destroyer, but was assigned to a minesweeper in the Pacific Theater for the duration of the war. During that time, he was sent to Okinawa, Korea and mainland Japan after the Allied victory.
Upon returning to Phoenix, Lemons finished high school and attended Arizona State University. He continued to serve the country by remaining in the Naval Reserve for eight years. Lemons had always been an athlete and was an excellent basketball player. As an avid Phoenix Suns fan, Lemons lives and breathes purple and orange.
We received a chance to speak with Ray to discuss his time in the Navy, his Phoenix Suns fan-hood and his unique opportunity to play against the Harlem Globetrotters back in the day.
You were only 17 years old when you joined the U.S. Navy. What was that journey like at such a young age?
“Whenever you’re 17, you think that you’re indestructible. I thought I was in pretty good shape. I played football, basketball and baseball. So I didn’t mind training or anything. I missed home, but I had three brothers in the service so I thought I’d join them.”
What does it mean to be honored by the Phoenix Suns tonight for your services?
“It’s a great honor. I didn’t expect it, but my great-granddaughter wrote-in. I’ve been watching the Suns since the Madhouse on McDowell. I got to see people like Alvan Adams. I enjoyed that. I enjoy watching the Suns. The Suns organization has been very good to a lot of people and I hear they are putting a lot of money into building basketball courts for young kids. I think that’s a good thing.”
I was told you played against the Harlem Globetrotters in 1953. Take me through that event.
“It was around 1952-53. I played against Goose Tatum and Marques Haynes. I played on the town team in Gilbert. I got to play against them there at Gilbert High School.”
As a lifelong Suns fan, what has it been like watching the organization develop throughout the 50-year history?
“I think it’s been very good. They’ve had some really good players with Kevin Johnson, Paul Westphal and quite a few other people. I’ve enjoyed watching them play. I appreciate all the things the Suns do, especially for the Veterans. I appreciate the honor.”
If you had to pick one, what is your all-time favorite memory of the Phoenix Suns franchise?
“All-time favorite memory would probably be Gar Heard shooting a basket against Boston. ‘The Shot Heard Around the World’ would be the one highlight. It was a great game.”
The Suns will honor our nation’s armed forces and celebrate Veterans Day with APS Military Appreciation Night on Saturday when the team hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves at Talking Stick Resort Arena at 7 p.m. Active and retired military personnel will receive a discount of 50 percent off tickets and can take advantage of a 30 percent discount in the Suns Team Shop with a valid military ID during Saturday’s game. The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive a Suns camouflage t-shirt, courtesy of APS.