The 5: Best single-game performances in Arizona sports history
May 18 marks the 13-year anniversary of Randy Johnson’s perfect game for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
At 40 years old, he became the oldest player to toss one, and it marks one of two no-hitters in D-backs franchise history. The Big Unit struck out 13 against the Atlanta Braves in what was inarguably the highlight of a miserable 51-111 season.
And that got us to thinking: What are the other best single-game performances in Valley sports lore?
Narrowing it down wasn’t easy. So, I subjectively give you five more that were significant either in a historical context — team or league-wide — or big in terms of the single game’s importance (i.e., a big-time playoff performance gets a bump).
Kurt Warner – Jan. 10, 2010 vs. Packers
Against up-and-coming Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first playoff start, it was Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner who stole the show during a marvelous offensive back-and-forth by both teams. Arizona’s signal-caller finished the Wild Card game with 379 passing yards and more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4). He went 29-for-33 without a pick as the Cardinals won in overtime, 51-45, by a game-ending defensive play of all things.
Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby picked up a fumble by Rodgers — Green Bay’s young QB finished with a then-team record 422 passing yards and four scores himself — and returned it for a 17-yard touchdown as the Cardinals advanced.
Charles Barkley – May 4, 1994 vs. Warriors
The Chuckster got hot early. Despite an injured back, the Suns forward scored 27 first-quarter points — two off the then-playoff record — and set the NBA playoff record with 38 at the half. The end result, a 56-point outing, closed out a three-game sweep of Golden State in the first round of the playoffs.
The final score: 140-133.
Along with Barkley’s 56, he added 14 rebounds, four assists and three steals while shooting an efficient 23-of-31.
Devin Booker – March 24, 2017 vs. Celtics
The Suns’ loss wasn’t as close as the final 130-120 score indicated, but Booker’s performance made a blowout a bit memorable for Boston and Phoenix fans alike. After scoring 19 points by the half, it appeared to be another ho-hum, 40-point outing for Booker. Instead, he scored 51 after halftime and 28 in the fourth quarter to finish with a team record 70.
Perhaps most surprising was Booker hitting just four three-pointers. He instead thrived at the foul line, hitting 24-of-26 free throws while going 21-for-40 from the field. Not mentioned enough: He added eight rebounds, six assists and three steals as he captivated the Boston crowd while tying Wilt Chamberlain for the 10th-highest scoring game in NBA history.
Mike Smith – April 3, 2012 vs. Blue Jackets
His first season with the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t have gone any better. Smith led the NHL in goals saved above average in his only All-Star season and went 38-18. His stretch to end the 2011-12 season saw him record three shutouts in a row during the month of April, the third game of which he stopped all 54 shots by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
By the end of that 2-0 win for the Coyotes, Smith had help opponents scoreless for 219 minutes and 59 seconds.
Smith’s season saw the Coyotes finish first in the Pacific Division before they made the only run to the Western Conference Finals in their Valley history.
Randy Johnson – May 8, 2001 vs. Reds
Johnson tied the MLB record with 20 strikeouts in a game. The only disappointing bit to this one is the Diamondbacks’ starter allowed one run and the offense didn’t do much to help avoid extra innings. Arizona eventually won, 4-3, over Cincinnati in the 11th frame, but Johnson did record all of his strikeouts in nine innings.
Honorable mention: Kalen Ballage’s 8 TDs vs. Texas Tech (Sept. 10, 2016), Larry Fitzgerald’s 152 yards and 3 TDs in the NFC Championship Game vs. Eagles (Jan. 18, 2009), Anquan Boldin’s 217 receiving yards vs. Lions — in his NFL debut (Sept. 7, 2003), Eddie House’s 61 points vs. Cal (Jan. 8, 2000), Tom Chambers’ 60 points vs. Sonics (March 24, 1990), Erubiel Durazo’s 3 home-run, 9-RBI game vs. Phillies (May 17, 2002)