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An Original Nice Guy

Sidelined by a stroke six years ago, the ‘Original Sun’ finds art to be great therapy.

Jimmy Magahern | Apr 4, 2012, 11:54 a.m.
Dick Van Arsdale Ross Mason

“We got enough work to do to keep us busy, but not so much work that we have to say, ‘I gotta work 10 hours a day to make this deadline,’” says Rich, kicking back behind Dick’s desk while Van Arsdale reclines in a chair beside his art tables.

“We come here every day because we actually have a good time. We enjoy each other’s company,” Rich says.

“Yeah,” Van Arsdale agrees, ribbing his friend. “Steve may look dumb, but he’s actually kinda smart!”

Twin Towers

Tom Van Arsdale is out to lunch when this interview takes place, but Dick maintains it’s one of the few times he and his twin brother are apart.

“That’s his desk, right there,” he says, motioning to the sprawling piece of furniture directly across from his own. “We still see each other every day.”

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Van Arsdale and his twin brother Tom are rarely apart. They both played basketball for the Phoenix Suns during the ’76-’77 season.

The Van Arsdales were born in a time when identical twins were less common, thanks to modern fertility treatments that can often lead to multiple births. As such, the mirror-image basketball-playing brothers became early celebrities, landing them on the pages of Life while they were still juniors at Indiana State University, sparking movie contract offers from Warner Brothers, an offer the sports-loving brothers turned down.

Instead, the two wound up playing on different NBA teams — Dick for the Knicks for three years before he joined the Suns, and Tom for the Detroit Pistons and four other teams before finally joining forces with his brother in the Suns for the 1976–1977 season, which ended up being the final season for the brothers.

“It wasn’t a very good year for the Suns, but we had a lot of fun together,” Dick says. He notes that not all identical twins are as close as he and Tom, who were encouraged by their parents to dress alike throughout high school and who were only separated for the first time when they left for different NBA rookie camps after college graduation. “Not all twins are like that, but we were.”

Van Arsdale points to one of his few larger paintings, a favorite fishing spot in Canada. “We go up there pretty often, just me and Tom. We still do things together a lot. We used to golf together, too — but we both quit that!”

When not hanging out with his brother, Van Arsdale says he loves spending time with his wife of 45 years, Barbara, and their grown son and daughter along with his four grandchildren. “They all live in Phoenix, which is really nice,” he says. “I get to see them a lot.” In fact, both Dick and Tom get to see their kids around the office daily: today, Van Arsdale Properties Inc. is pretty much run by the offspring.

So far, none of his grandkids — three girls and a boy — have shown an interest in basketball, but Van Arsdale’s fine with that. “I’d rather they be smart than athletic,” he says. “I’ve seen too many good athletes do really dumb things with their money.” Both his and Tom’s wives have also dabbled in painting, and Dick says Tom’s done some pretty promising things with oils.

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