Great gifts in Arizona sports history

Dec 23, 2011, 9:02 PM | Updated: 9:52 pm

‘Tis the season for giving, and though Arizona sports fans
have suffered quite a bit, we have been on the receiving end
of quite a few gifts.

Below is a list of some of the best players and coaches who
have come through the Valley, a group of people who we are
fortunate to say belong to us.

Did we leave anyone out? Let us know in the comments below.

Diana Taurasi

Sure, a team landing the number one pick 
should find itself a good player, but the 
Phoenix Mercury were incredibly fortunate to 
land the top selection in 2004, when UConn 
star Diana Taurasi was the consensus top 
choice. Taurasi has averaged nearly 21 points 
per game in her WNBA career, leading the 
Mercury to a pair of championships and 
earning a league MVP award, too. Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov was one of the NHL's better 
goaltenders as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, 
but there was simply no room for the then-27-year-old on the roster with Jean-Sebastien 
Giguere already entrenched as the top goalie. 
So, the Ducks waived Bryzgalov, and by virtue 
of their record the Coyotes were able to 
claim him. For all his faults, Bryzgalov did 
lead the Coyotes to the playoffs two-
consecutive years, a stretch no fan would 
want to give back. Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams was one of the least-heralded members of Sean Miller's 2009 
recruiting class, but ended up being the best 
of them all. The No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA 
Draft, Williams was all set to be a USC 
Trojan when coach Tim Floyd resigned under 
allegations of breaking NCAA rules. Williams 
left for Arizona and the rest, as they say, 
is history. Thanks, Tim. Dave Tippett

Dave Tippett was hired by the Coyotes on 
September 24, 2009. The season started on 
October 3. The Desert Dogs were fortunate to 
land a coach of his caliber, especially after 
the debacle that was the Wayne Gretzky 
regime. Tippett has guided a team with 
middling talent to the playoffs twice, and 
could do so for a third time this year. Curt Schilling

The 2000 Diamondbacks were floundering. Just 
one year after winning the NL West, Arizona 
was struggling to keep pace when they decided 
to pair another ace with stud Randy Johnson. 
On July 26, 2000 the team swapped Travis Lee, 
Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal and Nelson 
Figueroa for the veteran righty, and while 
Arizona didn't win the West in 2000, the 
trade paid big dividends. Schilling was the 
team's ace in the 2001 World Series run, and 
would have won a Cy Young or two had it not 
been for teammate Randy Johnson. As for the 
players Arizona gave up? Meh. Charles Barkley

Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. 
That's all the Suns needed to part with in 
order to land one of the NBA's 50 Greatest 
players before the 1992-93 season, and all 
Sir Charles did was win the league MVP and 
lead the team to the NBA Finals in his first 
year in the desert. A member of the Suns' 
Ring of Honor, Barkley will go down as one of 
the best players in history. Lute Olson

How did the University of Arizona not only 
land a coach like Lute Olson, but keep him 
around for 24 seasons? Who knows. Olson 
arrived in 1983 and quickly turned UA into a 
basketball powerhouse, and resisted overtures 
from schools like Kentucky to remain in 
Tucson. He guided the school to 14 Sweet 16s, 
nine Elite 8s, four Final Fours and one 
National Championship. Steve Nash

Up until last summer when his team won the 
NBA championship, chances are good Mark Cuban regretted letting Steve Nash return to the Suns. Sure, Nash always had an affinity for the team that drafted him, but he was all set to return to Dallas in 2004 when, for fears over his durability, Cuban decided to submit a lowball offer to his point guard, leading to Nash's return to Phoenix. All Nash has done since is win two MVPs, lock up a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame and bring an exciting brand of hoops the Valley. Pat Tillman

Does this one even really need an 
explanation? Tillman was an outstanding 
linebacker during his time at Arizona State 
and fell the the Arizona Cardinals in the 
seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He 
amassed 238 tackles and three interceptions 
in four NFL seasons, playing with the passion 
he was always known for. Everyone knows what 
happened in Tillman's post-NFL career, but we 
are all thankful for having been able to 
watch him in our own backyard. Luis Gonzalez

Quick, name the player the D-backs traded 
away to get Luis Gonzalez. Can't do it? OK, 
fine. Karim Garcia is the player, and these are his career stats. 
While not the worst player ever, he doesn't 
really compare to a guy who hit .298 over 
eight seasons with Arizona and slugged 224 
home runs and tallied 774 RBI. Oh, he led the 
team to a World Series win, too.

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Great gifts in Arizona sports history