Updated Feb 9, 2011 - 2:34 pm
The all-time coolest athlete in Arizona
Cool is an unquantifiable term. The dictionary defines it in the vaguest of terms as "great; fine; excellent". It's a definition that isn't much help in figuring out who is and isn't. So, what really makes someone cool? Is it their style? Does attitude play a huge part? How much does a person's performance at their job taken into account?
As much as we'd like to think we can explain exactly what makes a person cool, usually we can't. It's just something that we know when we see it.
With that in mind, we decided to examine the question in Arizona sports. We assembled a panel of writers to let us know who they think is the coolest Arizona athlete of all-time. Keeping the ‘you know cool when you see it' idea in mind, we made sure to select four of the writers on our staff, Mark Asher, Dave Burns, Greg Esposito and Adam Green, who grew up in the Valley and saw the athletes up close and personal for years.
While athletes like Steve Nash, Connie Hawkins, Luis Gonzalez, Shane Doan and others may be viewed as cool by some, our writers selected four athletes unique to their perspective. Are these four athletes the coolest of all-time? You get to decide. Let us know if you agree or disagree.
Mark Asher: Kurt Warner is Mr. Cool to me
This was hard to do, pick one cool athlete that has ever played in the state of Arizona. It was hard because there are a lot in my opinion. I read Espo's choice of Dan Majerle and it is hard to argue Majerle's coolness. If you have a successful restaurant for all those years you have to be pretty cool, and no Wolf that does not mean you will make this list anytime soon! Gonzo is one of the coolest guys I have ever met. Never have I come across an athlete so willing to embrace his stardom and let the fans see him as an everyday Joe. Steve Nash is cool when he makes those funny videos and when he drops 18 assists on fools in a game. I have hung out with Jeremy Roenick many times and it doesn't get much cooler than that as far as the NHL is concerned. (Shane Doan is a very close second!) All these guys are super cool and I could probably add about 30 more, but I had to choose one and my choice is old twinkle toes himself.
I first met Kurt after the Arena Bowl back in the 90's when he was playing for the Iowa City Barnstormers. I got paid by some radio station in Iowa City like $200 to get postgame sound, win or lose, from some guy named Kurt Warner. I first thought wow I can't believe the running back from the Seahawks is now an Arena league quarterback...oops that was Curt Warner. The Arizona Rattlers won that night so here I go off to the losers locker room to find this Kurt Warner guy. There he was sitting at his locker, not a hint of gray yet by the way, getting out of his pads. I thought to myself this is going to be awkward. I go up to him and introduce myself and tell him what I needed. He couldn't have been nicer. That to me is cool!
From that point on I always kept an eye out for this Kurt Warner guy and couldn't believe it when he was actually leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl. Leading the Rams to the SuperBowl...twice??? That is cool! Although the hundreds of TV shots of his wife in the stands wasn't that cool at the time, but now that I see what an amazing family Kurt and Brenda have I think it was pretty cool after all.
Kurt Warner with the NY Giants...Not cool!
Kurt Warner showing up here in the desert to help Matt Leinart at quarterback didn't start out that cool, but man it sure ended really cool. While here Warner really made a name for himself on and off the field. His tireless work in the community is cool. His foundation First Things First is cool. Even his charity events are cool as Kurt asked me to play in his flag football event a few years back at the Cardinals facility. Kurt would invite all his QB buddies and some other athletes like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to play QB for a bunch of out of shape weekend warriors playing flag football. My QB that day was Donovan McNabb. That is cool and it was thanks to Kurt.
I have played with Kurt in celebrity basketball games and he was always the most popular player out there. Oh yeah and he was cool to play basketball with. (And he's not a bad player I might add.)
I have interviewed Kurt Warner probably 30 times over the last five years and every time he would come on the air he was cool. He was polite, funny and quite honestly one of the best talkers I have ever had on. Just last week Kurt called in on his own to hammer Gambo for saying Roethlisberger was better than him. It was classic and very, very cool.
Kurt Warner's Christianity is even cool. I say that because a lot of athletes claim they have faith and lead by God's example and then they get caught cheating on their wives, doing drugs, getting arrested or you name it. Kurt Warner practices what he preaches and some people maybe feel he preaches too much, but if you actually do the things you are talking about I say preach away my brother!
Last but not least, Kurt Warner can dance and that is cool. OK, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but Kurt went on "Dancing with the Stars" and nearly stole the show. It wasn't really about his dancing per say as he would be the first to tell you he was a much better QB than dancer. However, he stole the show because he showed the whole nation what he was all about and how great of a guy he is. That to me was cool.
You know what would be really cool? Kurt Warner coming out of retirement to lead the Cardinals once again! Come on Kurt, do it. You could become Fonzie like cool and that is status very rarely reached!
Dave Burns: Charles Barkley is the coolest
You want cool? I'm talking Rock Star cool? There's only one guy at the top of that heap in the history of Valley sports: Charles Barkley. If cool people are defined as people who attract a crowd, who could possibly be cooler than The Chuckster.
Tough. Intimidating. Not scared of a thing and never apologized for anything. Laugh-out-loud hilarious. The kind of personality that can not only carry a room, it carries an entire pre, half and post game show (Inside the NBA). Back in the day, if Barkley would walk into club, the buzz ripple could be felt from one wall to another.
Before Barkley, Phoenix was a sleepy city with very little sports notoriety or cache, yet somehow he made us cool. Not an easy trick.
Maybe you're still mad at him for how it all ended. Get over it and understand that Charles Barkley's arrival in Phoenix was one of the most definitive moments in this community's sports history. Who else you gonna say that about? When he speaks we still hang on every word. And when he's here (see the Auburn/Oregon national championship game) he's still the life of the party.
Greg Esposito: Dan Majerle is the epitome of cool
See, when I think cool, I think Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. At the first mention of the word, visions of style, swagger, charisma, cool nicknames, a way with the ladies and an interesting back story run through my head.
Only one athlete I've ever seen in Arizona has fully embodied those qualities, or at least given the appearance that he did. Dan Majerle.
Fans may not have liked the Suns drafting the swingman out of Central Michigan at first but they quickly fell in love with him. His thunderous dunks early in his career earned him the nickname Thunder Dan. His long range shooting later on earned him three all-star game appearances and numerous franchise and league records. Along with earning additional attention from fans, Majerle became a restaurateur in the early ‘90's opening a downtown hangout that he and many of his teammates were known to frequent after games. (You know you're cool when you can name a place after yourself and no one even bats an eye.) Along with that, he's starred in ads for electronic stores and chiropractors since his playing days and, possibly the coolest thing of all, he appeared in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition with his then wife Tina. Oh, and did I mention he played in the Olympics too?
Dan Majerle throughout his career exhibited every quality I deemed necessary for being cool. The pure fact that he is still relevant in the state as a pitchman, coach and restaurant owner nine years after his playing career came to an end speaks volumes. There is however one final and definitive reason that factored into my decision. I know someone who named her recently born daughter Majerle, spelling and all, based on a childhood crush she had on the Suns' sharp shooter. People may name their dog Barkley or their Muppet Gonzo, but you won't see them name their daughter after either of them. Now that's cool.
Adam Green: Jeremy Roenick is cool in my books
The Winnipeg Jets are moving to Phoenix and will become the Phoenix Coyotes. Oh, and they traded for the Blackhawks' Jeremy Roenick. Cool.
When I was asked to nominate someone for the coolest athlete in Arizona sports history, naturally my mind went straight to the hockey rink. Hey, you want cool, head towards the ice, right? All puns aside, Valley fans did not know much about the NHL at the time, but we had all heard of Roenick - or at least heard him.
As outspoken as anyone, Roenick was an American-born star who instantly teamed up with Keith Tkachuk to form one of the more dynamic duos in hockey, all at a time when the Cardinals stunk, the Suns were entering a stage of mediocrity and the Diamondbacks were still a couple years away from first pitch. The Coyotes were new and good, and Roenick was at the forefront of all the fun. Oh, and playing in a postseason series with a broken jaw earned him some points as well.
Roenick was so cool he returned to the Coyotes a few years ago because the team knew bringing him back could drum up some fan support. Even now, his playing career but a memory, he's around. Remember the analyst work during the Winter Olympics, where he was covering USA Hockey's epic run? How many Valley athletes have enough cache within their sport to represent it to an entire nation?
The face of a franchise the second he arrived, a favorite son even though he only spent six seasons here, and a beloved personality all rolled into one? Now that's cool.
FAN POLL: Here is your chance to create your own coolest athlete list for Arizona Sports. See if the fans differ from the panelists.