The top 10 headlines for Arizona Sports in 2019
While it wasn’t a year filled with success from every team, boy were there some headline-grabbing stories for Valley sports teams in the past year.
In a list that isn’t 100% indicative of what was the biggest news of the year, here are the 10 most-read stories on ArizonaSports.com for 2019.
There was a week or two where things got real weird with the Phoenix Suns. No, I’m not talking about the Jimmer Fredette signing.
Then-Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball was in constant trade talks surrounding the Anthony Davis saga, and there was reported interest from the Suns’ end in the young point guard.
Ball’s father, LaVar, had become a bonafide celebrity through Ball’s lone year at UCLA and his son’s rookie season, only to seemingly disappear from the limelight when LeBron James arrived in Phoenix two seasons ago.
With this news, LaVar emerged on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station to discuss not only Lonzo’s fit on the Suns but his two other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo.
There wound up being no trade for Ball by the Suns, nor with the New Orleans Pelicans at the trade deadline, but they eventually got the deal done last offseason.
In a late April game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, Chicago third baseman David Bote had already homered twice.
With the Cubs leading 7-1 in the seventh inning and D-backs pitcher Matt Koch in, the right-hander gave up a homer to Anthony Rizzo and a double to Javier Baez to open the inning. That’s when Bote stepped up, and after fouling off the first pitch, he was hit by the second. Bote gestured at Koch with some words and the pitcher held his hands up. Koch was seemingly confused at why Bote was upset, and while Bote didn’t charge the mound, the benches cleared.
As catcher John Ryan Murphy said at the time, it did not appear to be a situation where the dugouts needed to empty and join in on the situation. But they did.
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo defended his pitcher, saying the D-backs don’t play “old-school baseball” and there was no intent behind the act.
Restricted free agency for Kelly Oubre Jr. in Phoenix was a strange week-plus. There wasn’t any buzz coming from the Suns or Oubre on what negotiations were like, nor reported interest from other teams to go to Oubre.
On July 2, Oubre posted three Instagram story updates in a row of three songs he was listening to. This is a frequent occasion for Oubre on the app, but the timeliness of songs titled “Poof,” “Had To,” and “Bag” in order was either extremely coincidental or a little bit of fun from Oubre. As in, poof he’s gone because he had to bag the contract he was offered by another team.
Whatever it was, Suns fans were worried about it.
Eight days later, it was reported that Oubre agreed to a two-year deal with Phoenix that became official nearly a week later.
A rivalry game always has a way of bringing that extra spice and this year’s rendition of the Territorial Cup was no different.
Arizona players were seen at midfield before the game being a bit emphatic with their cleats on ASU’s new logo, which donned the entire state as essentially Sun Devil territory.
Nothing ever came of it beyond that and ASU won the game 24-14.
As should be the case with a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback, fans were excited to hear the buzz out of camp for Kyler Murray.
That was especially true with the way Kliff Kingsbury was being secretive about his offense.
Murray was getting rave reviews in the first two weeks of training camp, and it was highlighted by the Red and White practice, where the first glimpse of Murray in a game-like environment was put on display and he shined.
At a certain point early on in the Kingsbury era, it was evident that there were a lot of old school football folks who didn’t like his mentality.
There was former NFL head coach Rex Ryan emphasizing how boring he thought the offense was, hoping the Cardinals would get “smoked” and that he couldn’t wait until Week 1.
Then there was a sideline interview with Lamarcus Joyner of the Oakland Raiders during a preseason game against Arizona in which he said it was a “pretty-boy” offense and they wanted to run it out of the NFL.
98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Dan Bickley gave his thoughts on this target on Kingsbury and the Cardinals.
Our first bit of an actual roster move and it shouldn’t surprise you as to which one.
Given how Murray is now the chosen one, it’s easy to forget that there was a debate ensuing for months if the Cardinals should 1) draft Murray No. 1 overall and 2) trade Josh Rosen if they do.
They wound up pulling the trigger on both, but the latter took an extra day after picking Murray, with Arizona dealing Rosen to the Miami Dolphins at the end of the second round.
They used that draft pick on UMass receiver Andy Isabella.
People are curious about what Mike Leach has to say about a system he has helped revolutionize.
And, you know, aliens.
One of the most well-appreciated defenders that has ever played for the Cardinals, Lassiter died in early January from a heart attack at the age of 49.
He went undrafted out of Kansas in 1995 and went on to have his first eight NFL seasons in Arizona, recording 24 interceptions in 115 games.
Lassiter had four interceptions in a game in 1998, a game that clinched the Cardinals’ first playoff appearance in 15 seasons.
This is definitely our most surprising headline on the list.
After he posted 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the season opener, news broke the day after that Ayton had been suspended 25 games for testing positive for a diuretic.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft had originally said in his statement that he intended on potentially appealing the suspension, but no news of an appeal came, and Ayton later said he thought not going through with it was best after talking to the player’s union.
Ayton made his return on Dec. 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 18 points with 12 rebounds and three assists. He sprained his right ankle in that game and had missed the team’s last six games before returning Monday against the Blazers.