Only one man in Arizona sports deserves a statue

National Director of U.S.A. Basketball Jerry Colangelo arrives at Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night XVII on Saturday March. 19, 2011, in Phoenix.
National Director of U.S.A. Basketball Jerry Colangelo arrives at Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night XVII on Saturday March. 19, 2011, in Phoenix.

Last week the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar found it necessary to voice his displeasure with the Los Angeles Lakers. Not because they acted like the cast of The Real World in a bar, classless, against the Dallas Mavericks or failed to win a championship. No, he did it because the team hasn't built a statue of him outside of the Staples Center alongside the statues of Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya. As you can imagine, I'm a big fan of anyone who rips into the Phoenix Suns' rival no matter how stupid or petty the reason and because of that, the story caught my attention.

While Kareem was spending time complaining to anyone willing to listen -- including Stephen Colbert, which was appropriate seeing as the entire thing came off as a bad joke -- and Lakers fans were debating about whether or not he deserved a statue, I began to wonder which Valley athlete or executive deserves to be immortalized in metal for new generations of Arizona sports fans to see.

The first local athlete to receive his own statue was Pat Tillman, and rightfully so. His contributions to not only ASU and the Arizona Cardinals but to our country made him the obvious choice for such an amazing honor.

After that though, there seems to be more qualified candidates than at a job fair these days. Too bad only one of them is truly deserving.

There is Luis Gonzalez who gave Arizona its most memorable sports moment ever (as long as you don't count Rod Tidwell's catch in Jerry

Which person in Arizona sports deserves a statue most?
Jerry Colangelo
Charles Barkley
Luis Gonzalez
Kevin Johnson
Steve Nash
Kurt Warner
Maguire). Not only did his hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series give the Arizona Diamondbacks the state's lone major championship, but his *57 home runs that season are to this day a franchise record (Sorry, I don't believe Gonzo ever did anything wrong. Thanks to Bonds and McGwire it just feels like everyone wants an asterisk next to any impressive home run total from that era).

While Gonzo is impressive and still a fan favorite, building him a monument would be like giving John Cusack an Oscar for lifetime achievement. People love him and he has shown great skill, but the overall body of work proves he just doesn't deserve it.

Kevin Johnson is another name that came to mind. KJ was a great point guard in his day. Without him the Suns would never have been able to rebound from the drug riddled years of the mid 1980s or had the amazing success the early 1990s brought. The problem is he isn't the best guard to play for the team in the past 20 years. That, and if the statue was anything like the real KJ, it would break at least once every year.

Steve Nash is arguably the best point guard in Suns' history. He not only has been fantastic on the court, but he's been amazing in the community. He helped make the NBA interesting again as the leader of the Seven Seconds or Less offense and made the team title contenders for a six-year stretch of time. Although Nash's resume is impressive, he's already received the two statues he deserved in his two MVP awards. That and he's been immortalized on YouTube in his classic viral videos, so what more can he ask for?

Kurt Warner and Charles Barkley's time in Arizona mirrored each other. They burned bright for a brief time after seeing success in another city, put up impressive numbers and became all-time favorites. While they had more impact in Phoenix than childhood fame had on Britney Spears, even they don't deserve to have a tribute erected in their likeness.

When it comes down to it, there is only one man in Arizona sports history that deserves a statue above all others. That man is Jerry Colangelo.

Think about it, without Colangelo professional sports in Phoenix are like unicorns, UFOs and fans at Florida Marlins games -- nonexistent. In 1968 as a young man he moved to the Valley to help build the Suns. Since then he's been the team's general manager, coach and owner. Not to mention he was instrumental in the building of the US Airways Center and Chase Field, bringing the Phoenix Coyotes to town and creating the Arizona Diamondbacks from the ground up. Plus he's a member of the basketball hall of fame for his efforts.

He's had his hands in more things in the Valley than a local surgeon.

There is no person more deserving or worthy in Arizona sports of a statue than Colangelo. While he doesn't have one yet, don't expect him to go whining about it on Twitter or to local talk shows. He'll leave that to people like Abdul-Jabbar. It's more of a Laker thing to do anyways.

12 Comments   |   Join the conversation »
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  • Abuse
    fenix3030 wrote...
    He could really cap it all off
    If he could rescue the Yotes! If anyone could, he could...
  • Abuse
    John B. wrote...
    even though...
    the d-backs are STILL paying deferred salaries for that championship team he put together TEN years ago?!
  • Abuse
    Parker-Ballpoint wrote...
    Not Jerry -
    we've already built him a monument - Chase field. He's just a clever business man- -not a hero.
  • Abuse
    Espo wrote...
    Defending my choice
    @John B. - Deferred salaries don't matter. The banner hanging from the rafters and the World Series trophy are all that matter. It will always be the single greatest sports memory in Phoenix regardless of the future cost. He deserves a statue for that. @Parker-Ballpoint - Not saying he's a hero. Most sports statues in cities are based on what they did for the teams. Not because they're heroic. Jerry is a clever business man that rejuvenated downtown Phoenix and helped put the city on the sports map.
  • Abuse
    Azsports wrote...
    are you kidding
    This man is the Godfather of Phoenix. He should be in Jail.
  • Abuse
    Parker-Ballpoint wrote...
    @Espo - I get it that you're a sports
    writer and accordingly, you're going to place more value in what a "winning team" can do for home town sports than many of us who do not make our living on writing about games. Jerry being "clever" wasn't intended as a compliment. Sorry, but the gilding has worn off. Statue - worthy- no.
  • Abuse
    Dave D. wrote...
    How About :
    Al McCoy
  • Abuse
    Espo wrote...
    @David D
    You get a standing audience from the crowd for that suggestion. I didn't think of Mr. McCoy but he'd be right up there at the top of the list with Colangelo.
  • Abuse
    Dave D. wrote...
  • Abuse
    Ryan S. wrote...
    Absolutely Colangelo...
    Ignore the World Series. The state turns 100 in February. What man has done more for Arizona? Buehler... Buehler... "Big deal, he owned 2 teams." But w/those teams, he created thousands of jobs and generated BILLIONS of $'s. He was instrumental in bringing the Coyotes, making Phx a 4 team market. The teams generate revenue, create jobs, give the city and state WORLD-WIDE publicity. W/out his imprint, would Phx have the Super Bowl? The BSC? Hell, even the population is an indirect result of his 40+ years of efforts in AZ. Colangelo = statue-worthy. After that? Randy Johnson.
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