DAN BICKLEY

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

Dec 16, 2019, 6:12 PM | Updated: 7:28 pm
(AP Photos)...
(AP Photos)
(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.

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