March 24, 2017 is a date Devin Booker won’t ever forget. In the fourth game of a six-game road trip, Booker scored 70 points against the Celtics, hitting only four three-pointers and scoring 51 second-half points in the process. The 20-year-old joined NBA legends Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson and Kobe Bryant as the only players ever to score at least 70 points in a game.
But as meaningful as the individual accomplishment was for Booker, his primary goal is to get Phoenix to the postseason next year, a place the Suns haven’t been since 2010. With the first round of the 2017 playoffs in full swing, Booker spent his Tuesday afternoon with longtime friend D’Angelo Russell at Infinity Ward in Woodland Hills testing out Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Continuum, the second DLC Map Pack that features four new maps and a new zombies co-op experience that released yesterday on the PlayStation Network.
We caught up with Booker to talk his 70-point game, his favorite moments from his second season, his NBA Finals predictions, Call of Duty and more.
SLAM: What was going through your mind during that 70-point game?
Devin Booker: When you’re in a zone like that, your mind is blank. I’m sure everyone’s been in that zone before that’s played basketball where you make a couple shots in a row—obviously might not be 70 points—but you get in that zone where you just can’t miss and your mind is blank. You just feel like you’re at home in your comfortable gym just doing shoot around. It was a crazy moment for me. I think that was the starting point of my career now. I feel like my name’s out there and now I just have to build on that.
SLAM: Did you know how many points you had? Did you feel like you’d ever score more than 40 or 50 in a game?
DB: Well before that, my career-high was like 39 and I did it four times, so that 40-point was like, I can’t past that, and everyone kept saying that. But me personally, I’ve never set a goal on my game [or] a limit. I feel like I’m limitless. If I scored 100, I scored 100. I don’t set up myself to no barrier. And that’s in life and basketball.
SLAM: A lot of people had mixed feelings, because you scored 70 points, but it was in a loss. What are your thoughts on that?
DB: I mean, everyone has to say something. That’s people’s jobs—to sell articles and give their opinion. I can’t change their opinion and they can say what they want about it as long as my family is happy. The organization and the Phoenix Suns and people around me are proud of me and made a lot of people are happy; I’m fine with it. People can say what they want. I don’t really get into that.
SLAM: You had a lot of big moments this season. Was that one your favorite?
DB: It’s hard to pass on that 70. That’s an easy first. Second is a toss-up between the game-winners. I had like two or three—at the buzzer too, not just clutch shots. The one in Dallas and Sacramento were versus two really good defenders in Matt Barnes and Wesley Matthews. I remember growing up in the front yard counting down ‘3, 2, 1…’ and shooting, so just getting back to that and hitting game-winners. That’s something I like.
SLAM: Who do you have winning the NBA Finals?
DB: I think it’s going to be a rematch between the Warriors and Cavs. I don’t know what’s going to happen there and still haven’t thought of anything, but it’s tough. You never know what’s going to happen. The talent level in the NBA is crazy right now. You see what the Spurs are doing. They’re playing their best basketball of the year right now. Houston, you have James [Harden] doing what he’s doing over there. It’s a toss-up, man. I’m just looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
SLAM: Everyone has made their case for MVP. For someone who has played against both candidates this season, who deserves it?
DB: I’ve been getting that question a lot. People will text me, call me because they feel I’m a basketball mind so they come to me about that. But I don’t know. You might have to do co-MVP. It depends on what perspective you’re looking at. If you’re at it in terms of leading your team in winning, then James, but if you’re looking for most valuable player—numbers-wise, stats-wise—then it’s Russ. It’s a big toss-up of team winning and numbers, but they’re both putting up numbers and their teams are winning, so it’s going to be a tough call. I guess we’ll see.
SLAM: What’s something you feel you accomplished this season?
DB: I feel like I accomplished the start of something. The 70 points and game-winners, I think that was a start of a legacy. People start to know my name actually now and they’re looking to say he’s the future. Now, I think it’s my job to lead this team to winning and turning around the franchise. It’s been an ugly first two years but I think at the end of it will be the most meaningful—going through all the losses, not making the playoffs. I think it’s going to be actually that much better when we start doing that.
SLAM: You’re the face of the Suns franchise now. What’s some advice you gotten from the vets?
DB: I got a lot of advice during all this from my veterans Tyson Chandler, Ronnie Price, PJ Tucker and they were like, ‘You have to stay focused.’ They said they’re glad I’m seeing it now early in my career so it doesn’t catch you by surprise later in your years, but you learn there’s a business side of basketball as well. You develop these relationships and realize people can get traded any day, so it’s tough but you have to have that tunnel vision and know the task that’s at hand and always live by control the controllable. And some things you can’t control, so it just happens and you have to live with it.
SLAM: What are some things you’d like to work on this offseason?
DB: Just come in next year in the best shape I can be, whether it’s eating right, working on my body throughout the summer. Also, leading our young core—Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, Alan Williams. We have a young core mixed with a lot of great veterans, but I think as a young core moving forward, the team’s going to be ours ‘cause we’re the future. We can’t use ‘we’re too young’ as an excuse every year, so just growing up and not making the same mistakes over and over again.
SLAM: Any chance you’ll be working with Kobe?
DB: I’d love that. I have a few connections to him. It might happen.
SLAM: The Suns will have a top pick in the NBA Draft. What kind of player are you hoping the franchise adds?
DB: That’s a great question. Outside of a certain position or player, just someone who comes in with the right mindset. Obviously if it’s going to be a top pick, he’s going to be making a lot of money and you can’t let all that get to you. You have to come in and be ready to work and be on the same goal as everyone else is and that’s to win basketball games. So whoever comes in with a winning mindset and willing to work, I’m fine with. And if not, hopefully they don’t come to Phoenix.
SLAM: Of the four new Call of Duty maps that were introduced today, which one was your favorite?
DB: Rust [on the Excess map]. I was a big Modern Warfare 2 fan, so getting to replay that map with new adjustments and the new things they added to it was fun for me.
SLAM: D’Angelo Russell said he’d take you and Karl-Anthony Towns for a 3-on-3 COD tournament. If you could form an All-NBA COD squad, who’s your five?
Action photo: NBAE/Getty Images, Video game photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images