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Dan Bickley

Four Valley sports teams vying for next big moment in Arizona history

(AP Photos)

Our Summer of Love occurred in 1993, when the Suns lost to Michael Jordan’s Bulls and the Valley staged the biggest loser’s pep rally in NBA history.

Eight years later, the Diamondbacks damaged the World Series trophy during their championship parade, when a double-decker bus turned the corner and a tree branch clipped the top of the coveted chalice.

They are hoist-a-glass moments in Arizona, the stuff that bonds us all.

So who’s got next?

A prediction concludes the following analytical exercise, as four frontline Valley franchises battle for Arizona’s next major professional championship. Feel free to play along:

(First place, 4 points; Second place, 3 points; Third place, 2 points; Fourth place, 1 point).

Star player most integral to a championship in his sport: 

  1. Kyler Murray
  2. Devin Booker
  3. Madison Bumgarner
  4. Taylor Hall

Summary: Murray is already a Top 10 quarterback in the NFL. His performance against the Browns, tackle and all, was a much-needed jolt of optimism.

Position most integral to a championship:

  1. Cardinals (quarterback)
  2. Coyotes (goaltending)
  3. Diamondbacks (rotation ace)
  4. Suns (point guard)

Summary: The Coyotes have a great thing going with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, but you’ve seen how good the Cardinals look when Murray is rolling. And the Cardinals have the worst roster of our four major professional sports teams.

Best General Manager:

  1. Mike Hazen
  2. John Chayka
  3. James Jones
  4. Steve Keim

Summary: Hazen is cutthroat and pedigreed, the best general manager in baseball.

Most influential, free-spending owner:

  1. Alex Meruelo
  2. Michael Bidwill
  3. Ken Kendrick
  4. Robert Sarver

Summary: Meruelo is a billionaire with a chip on his shoulder. His early displays of ambition get a premature nod in this category.

Best Second-Best Offensive Player:

  1. Larry Fitzgerald
  2. Ricky Rubio
  3. Eduardo Escobar
  4. Clayton Keller

Summary: Fitzgerald is nearing the end, but still one of the greatest clutch players in NFL history. If the Cardinals get close anytime soon, he will make a difference.

Most influential home-stadium advantage:

  1. Suns
  2. Cardinals
  3. Diamondbacks
  4. Coyotes

Summary: Nothing rocks like downtown Phoenix when our NBA team is rolling.

Best head coach/manager:

  1. Torey Lovullo
  2. Rick Tocchet
  3. Monty Williams
  4. Kliff Kingsbury

Summary: Lovullo has an edge over Tocchet, even though the Coyotes head coach has the region’s best motto: “Punch First.”

Easiest short-term path to division title:

  1. Coyotes
  2. Diamondbacks
  3. Suns
  4. Cardinals

Summary: Coyotes win by default, in a category where the Diamondbacks must compete with big-spenders; Suns have to deal with the Laker factor; and the Cardinals must conquer the best division in football, where the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams are a combined 30-12.

Best sport for Underdog champions:

  1. NHL
  2. MLB
  3. NFL
  4. NBA

Summary: A goalie can take you a long way in the NHL playoffs. The Coyotes have two of them.

Best chances of making the playoffs in 15 months:

  1. Coyotes
  2. Diamondbacks
  3. Suns
  4. Cardinals

Summary: The Coyotes are our best shot at immediate gratification while the Diamondbacks will likely contend in late summer.

And our next champion is …

  1. Coyotes, 28 points.
  2. Diamondbacks, 27 points.
  3. Cardinals, 24 points.
  4. Suns, 21 points.

Summary: The Coyotes’ new owner is very ambitious, hoping to grow the sport of ice hockey inside the Valley’s robust Latino community. A Stanley Cup certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier