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Dan Bickley

Larry Fitzgerald becoming part-owner of Suns valuable in many ways

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns greets Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald before the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 23, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Larry Fitzgerald is now part-owner of a NBA franchise. For a current NFL player and the son of a sportswriter, that is a remarkable financial accomplishment.

Fitzgerald will serve a small but important role. He will bring his ambassadorship and good vibes to a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs in nearly a decade. Hopefully, he’ll help keep Robert Sarver in line and out of the kitchen. At the very least, he will soften the image of an owner who is as reviled as Fitzgerald is revered.

You wonder how the Cardinals really feel about this development, having to share Arizona’s greatest treasure with the Suns. He is part of both franchises now. That’s a fact.

And yet Fitzgerald’s most important contribution will come elsewhere, as mentor to the most important member of Planet Orange. Fitzgerald is Devin Booker insurance.

If Booker gets frustrated over the quality of his teammates in Phoenix, Fitzgerald can rattle off 21 different quarterbacks he played with in Arizona. Booker is old enough to roll his eyes at some of the names.

If Booker gets frustrated with all the losing, Fitzgerald can share the valleys he’s experienced over his remarkable career in the desert.

If Booker can take no more and wants to find greener grass elsewhere, Fitzgerald can show him the power and wisdom of staying in one place.

All of it will come in handy at some point.

So much of this ownership story is focused on the unlikely pairing of Fitzgerald and Sarver, who are now business partners, biking partners and a sitcom in the making.

Sarver can truly benefit from Fitzgerald’s beloved status, his acute observations, and his views on what it takes to compete at the highest level. He will be a great recruiting tool when luring the next potential free agent.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald just received what he wanted from the deal. A slice of ownership in a global empire. The ultimate end zone for any professional athlete.

For guys like Sarver, owning a sports team is harder than it looks. Moguls and billionaires enter a strange arena where rules of business no longer apply. Owners accustomed to elevating their business become wholly dependent on the service of professional athletes, who are moody, erratic and rough on the budget. The bottom line becomes is a won-loss record and a function of human competition, not linear production. There are no reliable formulas or assembly lines. It’s art and war all at once.

It’s one of the many reasons why average fans love sports. They humble the rich.

Fitzgerald will help Sarver because he can talk truth to Sarver. Because Sarver likes and trusts him. Because Fitzgerald is an icon, an A-list star and his presence alone adds more value to the franchise. And because Sarver knows the value of having Fitzgerald as a friend and confidante.

But Fitzgerald’s best work might come with Booker, who is approaching another mini-crossroad in his career. The Suns are struggling once again, threatening to miss the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. And if Booker misses another All-Star berth while playing the best basketball of his career, a sense of fatalism might take root.

He might begin to resent the franchise he’s represented so well. And that’s the moment when Fitzgerald will be the perfect mediator, able to reach Booker in ways that no one else in the organization can, including former NBA player James Jones.

Booker knows how popular Fitzgerald is in Arizona. He knows how well-respected Fitzgerald is outside the lines and across the globe. He wants to be on a pedestal just like Fitzgerald, and Booker said so himself, in a recent video clip released by the team.

Fitzgerald can teach Booker the things he needs to learn. The nuances of greatness. How to be a star on every platform. How to manage his career and his money. Where to focus in tough times. How to say the right things in every situation. And if the breaking point ever arrives for the Suns star, he can advise Booker on the folly of leaving State 48.

A class taught by the master.

Reach Bickley at 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 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
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