Ishmail ‘Ish’ (The Mailman) Wainright might be the newest Phoenix Suns player, but he is already ingrained in our community. He has amassed a fanbase that warmly embraces him as part of the Suns’ family, as evidenced by a recent photoshoot in Downtown Gilbert.
On a bright and sunny afternoon in April, Ish Wainright, his manager and a few members of his family were keeping it low-profile during the photoshoot for Gilbert City Lifestyle Magazine. Sure enough, fans started coming off the street, asking for photographs, autographs and giving him well wishes as the Phoenix Suns were heading into the semi-finals.
Standing 6’5 and weighing in at 250 lbs., Wainright’s sports career could have gone in just about any direction. “I’ve played literally everything,” says Wainright. “I used to be a swimmer. I was a good swimmer and won multiple competitions. I played baseball and was a third baseman.”
“I quit soccer because it was too much running,” he adds with a laugh. “Then there was basketball and football… My dad was a coach for basketball, flag football, baseball… Anything you can think of.” Wainright’s grandfather was NBA player, Maurice King, although he never got the chance to meet him.
In college, Wainright played basketball for the Baylor Bears for four seasons and switched gears into football. He joined the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent, but alas, did not make the team. The passion for football that he had as a youngster growing up in Kansas City, Mo. was no longer there. The next day after he was waived, he called his agent and said he was ready to commit to basketball and began training hard.
Wainright played in the German and French professional basketball clubs, eventually signing with the Toronto Raptors in August 2021, only to be waived by the team after two months. Only days later, he signed with the Phoenix Suns, and a few weeks ago, the Suns converted his previously signed two-way contract into a standard contract.
“This is real. This is what I want to do. This is my passion. This is what I love. This is going to change not only my life but my family’s life!”
Wainright is Phoenix Suns’ No. 12 and a power forward who has had limited playing time in the 2021-2022 season but has made his minutes count. In a pre-playoffs game against the LA Clippers on April 6, Wainright posted up 20 points, stepping up with assists and two and three-pointers while winning the admiration of Suns fans at the away game. We should all expect big things to be delivered by The Mailman in the coming season.
Phoenix Suns’ Jae Crowder (Gilbert City Lifestyle’s July 2021 cover) has taken Wainright under his wing and mentored him in the months since joining the team. “When I first got here, I didn’t know too much about Jae,” he says. “I only knew the Jae on TV, not Jae the person. From day one, he took me under his wing and said, ‘I got you. Don’t worry about it, little brother.’ And he’s a veteran. So, everything he says, I want to listen to. He’s been in the league 11-plus years.” Crowder was also at least partially a factor in Wainright’s decision to switch from Adidas to Nike Kobe shoes. “That’s all I wear now!”
He has gelled quickly with the Suns and now with a standard contract in place, the Valley is feeling more like home. “Everyone has welcomed me with open arms,” says Wainright. “This is the coolest team I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been part of a lot of teams.” Sitting on the back patio of Snooze in Downtown Gilbert during our afternoon interview, No. 12’s mom looked over nodding her proud approval of her son.
Wainright lives in Phoenix and is still discovering the Valley. “I’ve been on some hikes… and I’ve tried a few new restaurants. Everyone goes to Toca Madera. I love Toca. Shout-out to Eric and Eddie at Toca! And Brunch and Sip… The best ever! Brunch. And. Sip. Brunch and Sip and Ezbachi food truck are by far my favorites, and you can quote me on that!” He also has enjoyed Taco Blanco, The Parlor, The Breakfast Club and Matt’s Big Breakfast.
“Having a chance to be in the playoffs is a dream come true,” Wainright finishes. In the upcoming off-season, Wainright will head over to Uganda and play for its national team in hopes of propelling them into the next Olympics.