PHOENIX - It’s been almost a year since fans stepped foot inside the Talking Stick Resort Arena to watch the Phoenix Suns play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on Sunday, Feb. 7 a limited number of fans cheered on the Suns in their game against the Boston Celtics and to make it even more special, all of them were healthcare workers and their families.
"It was very much appreciated," said Emilie Garrison, a Mayo Clinic nurse.
Diana Villegas agreed, saying, "This was my first time at a professional basketball game too so it was really exciting to be able to see it."
Villegas and her sister Cristal Perez are both nurses. They cane out to the Sunday game together along with Cristal’s daughter Arianna.
It was a fun and safe experience, keeping socially distant from all of the other fans.
"We had the entire row, didn’t have to worry about being close to anybody," Perez said.
A free game is a much-needed treat for these workers who’ve had a rough year amid the fight against COVID-19.
It’s a cause that hits close to home for Suns player Cam Johnson whose mom is a school nurse.
"She’s been through a lot getting ready for the school year," Johnson said.
While it’s great to be able to play in front of any number of fans again, Johnson says it's especially an honor to play for these healthcare heroes.
"They have sacrificed so much and they really done a lot to save and heal our country and they need to know that they are appreciated," Johnson said.
According to a statement released on Feb. 2, officials with the NBA team say they were offering complimentary tickets to healthcare workers and their families to watch the team go against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 7.
"As the true MVPs of our community, we want to honor and thank our healthcare heroes for all they have done during these challenging times," said Phoenix Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley, in the statement.
Attendance, according to officials, is capped at 1,500 people per game, which is less than 10% of total capacity.