Devin Booker is cheering for Khris Middleton and the Bucks. For real

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker pumps his fists after a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker pumps his fists after a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press)
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Devin Booker’s social media mentions buzzed with activity Tuesday after the Phoenix Suns took a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

One account mentioned how the entire state of Arizona was counting on him, another praised the way he attacked Brook Lopez on switches and hundreds of others simply sent gifs predicting his team would win. Even TV host Roland Martin said the Houston Rockets could use a player like him.

When this happens, all Booker can do is shake his head and laugh. Because all these fans, all these admirers, they’ve got the wrong guy.


Devin Booker had just put his four kids to sleep before he started to watch Game 1 on his couch in Greenville, S.C. And even though he loves the way this Suns team plays, he’d rather see his former AAU teammate from back home, Khris Middleton, get the ring.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Booker laughed when talking about how so many people could get this wrong. Yes, he shares a name with the 24-year-old Suns guard. And yes, they even share a profession — he made his living grabbing rebounds and fighting for space in the paint in a number of European leagues.

If it’s the Suns’ Devin Booker, you’re talking to someone with more than 4.1 million followers on Instagram and another 968,000 on Twitter. If it’s the one who wants to see the Bucks outlast the Suns because of his old friend, it’s a more modest 41,500 on Instagram and 10,700 on Twitter.

Chris Paul had 32 points and nine assists, and the Phoenix Suns beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks 118-105 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

July 6, 2021

“I’m trying not to take advantage of the moment,” Booker said, his deep voice breaking into a higher-pitched laugh. “But it’s just like consistently tags and mentions, especially after the games that he does well.

“People, just take the time out of your day just to go on the actual profile to see who you’re tagging.”

This Devin Booker was a big-time basketball recruit too, a four-star who followed his big brother and future NBA player, Trevor Booker, to Clemson. From there, there have been stops in France, Germany and Russia.


He’ll play this upcoming season in Istanbul.

“He’s the first guy I ever really saw dunk on someone,” Middleton said of his friend before cracking a wide smile. “…You’re not the first one to mention this.”

Middleton and Booker played with one another for a few years in their teens, two of South Carolina’s best players in their class.

Clemson's Devin Booker moves around assistant coach Mike Winiecki.
Clemson’s Devin Booker, left, moves around assistant coach Mike Winiecki, right, during practice in Atlanta on March 7, 2012.
(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

“One of the purest shooters I’ve ever gotten the chance to play with,” Booker remembered. “Just silky smooth. Whenever you needed three points, kick it out to him. More than likely, he would knock it down. And it’s still the same to this day.”

They keep in contact, a message sent via social media here or there. When Booker’s overseas, the time change is too brutal for him to catch NBA games live. Instead, he checks highlights and reads box scores.

He keeps up with the other Devin Booker too because, well, how could he not?

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton dribbles the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton dribbles the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Even with a five-year head start in basketball circles, it became pretty clear to Booker that he would soon be the “other” Devin Booker (the two have never met). The Suns’ young shooting guard would soon be the 13th pick of the 2015 NBA draft. He arrived with the clout from Kentucky and the buzz in the NBA, so the older Booker realized pretty quickly that the Phoenix guard would be the basketball playing “Devin Booker” that people would think of first.

And when the Suns guard began dating Kendall Jenner, you can bet Middleton’s friend knew about it because of all the congratulation tags and messages — funny news to the married father of four. Still, nothing has been as intense as the reaction to this Suns playoff run.

Even before Rachel Nichols’ comments about Maria Taylor surfaced, ESPN had failed its journalists of color by failing to invest in the leadership needed to address such a situation.

July 6, 2021

“This postseason is the most mentions or the most tags on Instagram I’ve ever received. I’m not sure why people are so confused — my picture is on my profile on each Twitter and Instagram. Clearly, you can see my face and we look nothing alike. … But yeah, I get all kinds of texts and tweets. I think Stephen A. Smith mentioned me a few times on Twitter accidentally and the tweets just like blew up.

“And I’m like, all you have to do is go to my page, and you can clearly see that I’m not him. I guess people don’t take the time out to actually go on the page, and they just decide to just mention right away. It happens a lot.”

It’s nothing more than maybe a minor annoyance.

“There’s just some things,” he said with a chuckle, “that you just can’t control.”