Influence is defined as "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions of others". The Arizona sports scene has seen many influential figures over the last year. People who, through their actions and performances, have had both positive and negative impacts on the teams, organizations, and fans that call the state home.
While we talk about these individuals on a regular basis, rarely, if ever, do we rank them in order of their importance. It's a difficult task to accomplish with no simple, unbiased, and accurate way to achieve it.
That is, until now.
Thanks to a panel of 26 of the biggest names in Arizona sports from various different areas, we were able to compile a list of the 10 most influential people in Arizona sports for 2010.
Each panelist was asked to submit a ballot ranking their top five choices. First place votes were worth 10 points, a second place vote worth seven, third place five, fourth place three and fifth place one. Once the voting period was completed, we collected all of the ballots and compiled the scores for each nominee to determine our top 10.
Here is who our panelists chose:
No. 1: Kurt Warner, Former Quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals
Our panel selected former Arizona Cardinals quarterback and current NFL and FOX analyst, Kurt Warner in a landslide. Warner received 9 first place votes and scored 117 points, outscoring the second place vote getter by 48 points.
Although Warner only played two games in the calendar year, one happened to be an all-time great playoff performance. A performance where he racked up 379 yards and threw more touchdowns, five, than incompletions, four. When you combine that with the impact his retirement had on the Cardinals franchise, his charitable work, and the fact that his decision to participate in the reality show Dancing with the Stars made Valley sports fans talk about a dance competition, you can see how big his influence truly was in 2010.
The honor is something the former Cardinals signal caller views as an impressive achievement.
"It is a tremendous honor to be considered in this way by my peers, especially people who aren't tied to me on the football field," Warner said. "Having people outside of my field recognizing the impact I am trying to have on our community shows me that much of the commitment my family and I have made to cement ourselves in Arizona is paying the dividends we had hoped when we moved here six years ago.
Often times you understand the influence you can have on others while at the height of what you do, and in the prime of your career, but to be chosen for this honor at a time when I am no longer playing in the NFL makes it more special. I have always been a person who wanted to leave a larger legacy off the field than on and I believe this honor speaks to the idea that I have accomplished that goal to some degree. I hope that in the spirit of this honor I can continue to have that same impact for years to come."
No. 2: Steve Nash, Point Guard of the Phoenix Suns
Former MVP and seven time all-star Steve Nash earned the second spot on our list. He scored a total of 69 points earning two first place votes along with four second place votes.
Nash helped lead the Suns to an improbable appearance in the 2010 Western Conference finals by averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds during the team's playoff run. While his playoff totals were impressive, his regular season numbers of 18.9 points, 11.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds were comparable to his two MVP seasons.
Nash viewed being named the second most influential Arizona sports figure for 2010 as a fantastic acknowledgment of his efforts on and off the court.
"It's quite a great honor," the former MVP said. "There are a lot of great sportsman and people in the industry here in Arizona. We have a really great tradition here. To be on that list is flattering. I guess it means hard work pays off."
No. 3: Ken Whisenhunt, Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals
Our third most influential person in Arizona sports is our only from the coaching ranks. While head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals' season may not have been what he hoped for, his impact was still felt earning him 60 points from our voters.
In January Whisenhunt coached the Cardinals to only their fifth playoff win since moving to the Valley and gave the state its first 11-win NFL team ever. His influence was felt in a different way in September when he decided to cut former Heisman winning quarterback Matt Leinart. The move sent shockwaves across the NFL and left many wondering how the guy who was once dubbed as the future was no longer on the roster.
No. 4: Robert Sarver, Owner of the Phoenix Suns
Finishing fourth on the list was Suns owner Robert Sarver who earned 53 points from our panel.
Sarver had an up and down year in 2010. In April and May he oversaw a surprisingly successful playoff run that left the Valley abuzz. In the midst of that playoff run he also found himself in the middle of a political controversy when he decided to have the team wear "Los Suns" jerseys during a home playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs in protest of Arizona's controversial immigration law SB1070. The offseason didn't prove to be any quieter for the owner. Not only did he say goodbye to one of the franchise's best players in Amar'e Stoudemire and also general manager Steve Kerr, he also oversaw a revamping of their roster prior to hiring Kerr's replacement.
Despite his busy year, Sarver attributed being included on the list more to his team's importance in the city than his own actions.
"I think it shows that the Suns franchise being the oldest in town still is the jewel of the state in terms of professional sports franchises," the Suns owner said. "The fans and the media have a keen interest and continue to follow our franchise."
No. 5: Amar'e Stoudemire, Power Forward of the New York Knicks
Although his address may now read New York, New York, Amar'e Stoudemire had a major impact on Arizona sports in 2010. That impact earned him the fifth spot on our list.
Stoudemire made the list as much for what he did on the court as he did off it. In February the seemingly annual "the Suns will trade Amar'e" started again and caused a frenzy. Though he wasn't dealt the mere suggestion that he might be dominated sports talk in Arizona.
Once the dust settled after the trade deadline, Stoudemire began to dominate on the court. The forward posted 10 games with 30-points or more in the final few months of the season helping lead the Suns to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Possibly the biggest impact Stoudemire had came in the offseason when he decided to leave the Suns in favor of a more lucrative deal with the New York Knicks. The decision left Phoenix without their leading scorer and gave New York and coach Mike D'Antoni the star power they'd been missing.
No. 6: Jerry Colangelo, Former owner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks (50)
No. 7: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver of the Arizona Cardinals (37)
No. 8: Michael Bidwill, President of the Arizona Cardinals (31)
No. 9: Derrick Hall, President of the Arizona Diamondbacks (30)
No. 10: John Junker, Executive Director of the Fiesta Bowl (25)
Panelists: Jerry Colangelo President of USA Basketball, Lisa Love Vice President for Arizona State University Athletics, Greg Byrne Athletic Director at the University of Arizona, Mitch Strohman play-by-play Northern Arizona University, Tim Healey play-by-play Arizona State University, David Pasch play-by-play Arizona Cardinals, Jeff Van Raaphorst analyst Arizona State University, Al McCoy play-by-play Phoenix Suns, Rick Welts President and Chief Executive Officer Phoenix Suns, Derrick Hall President of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Greg Schulte play-by-play Arizona Diamondbacks, Jon Schmieder President of the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission, Mike Nealy Chief Operating Officer Phoenix Coyotes, Darren Urban writer AzCardinals.com, Brad Steinke Fox Sports Arizona, Bruce Cooper 12 Sports, Brad Cesmat 3TV, Doug Franz Host Sports 620 KTAR, Ron Wolfley host Sports 620 KTAR, Paul Calvisi Host Sports 620 KTAR, John Gambadoro Host Sports 620 KTAR, Mark Asher Host Sports 620 KTAR, Dave Burns Host Sports 620 KTAR, Tyler Bassett Columnist ArizonaSports.com, Greg Esposito Columnist ArizonaSports.com and Adam Green Columnist ArizonaSports.com.
FAN POLL: Here is your chance to create your own Most Influential list for Arizona Sports in 2010. See if the fans differ from the panelists.