DAN BICKLEY

Valley Q Scores: Ranking Arizona’s 25 most popular sports figures

Dec 3, 2020, 5:12 PM
(Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Suns)...
(Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Suns)
(Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Suns)

Welcome to Valley Q scores.

This is the stock market of Arizona sports. These are the ratings for the 25 most popular athletes, coaches, executives and broadcasters. These ratings will be updated monthly, reflecting who is rolling hot and who is tickling our fancy.

In a well-rounded sports town, you’d get a diverse list featuring Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, Rising star Solomon Asante and the Mercury’s Skylar-Diggins Smith.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. And we are a vanity-driven, people-watching, selfie-taking, fickle pro sports town that loves marquee celebrities, big events and after-parties.

In years past, this list would’ve also included Archie Bradley, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ketel Marte and Torey Lovullo. But life comes at you quick in Arizona. So do the losses.

For entertainment purposes only.

1. Larry Fitzgerald: The most popular athlete in Arizona history. Even if his reign at the top is nearing the end.

2. Devin Booker: Has a chance to reach the stratosphere of superstar athletes in the next two years.

3. Kyler Murray: Our first great young quarterback. But just how great?

4. DeAndre Hopkins: Big-time swag. Big-time player. Rebellious in ways you can’t afford. Drives a really nice car.

5. Chris Paul: Done nothing for us yet. But we know how great he is. And he picked us.

6. Jerry Colangelo: Iconic figure who has done more for Arizona sports than anyone in history. Mostly out of sight, but not out of mind.

7. Diana Taurasi: Royalty. Ruthless. The G.O.A.T. of women’s basketball.

8. Al McCoy: Most popular broadcaster in Arizona history. The Suns owe him one more run at a championship ring.

9. Budda Baker: Everything you want in a football player. Smart, physical, courageous, personable, homegrown, committed.

10. Pat Tillman: It’s been over 16 years since his death, but his race and his legacy run strong in these parts.

11. Deandre Ayton: The Suns’ only No. 1 draft pick. Frustrating, goofy, incredibly talented. The world is his, if he wants it.

12. Chandler Jones: A dominant player for most of his career in Arizona, currently on hold due to injury.

13. James Jones: Suns GM is becoming an impact player. Picks the right kinds of players. Imported the perfect head coach. Attracted Paul and Jae Crowder to our city despite the owner’s terrible reputation. Big points for the latter.

14. Herm Edwards: Represents the resurgence of ASU football, the sleeping giant awakened. And so much more likable than most college coaches.

15. Mike Hazen: After three consecutive winning seasons full of brilliant GM maneuverings, his owner called him a “magician.” And then came the 60-game debacle in 2020.

16. Monty Williams: Full of heart and soul. The best head coach in the Valley.

17. Steve Keim: Rose from the ashes by drafting Murray and trading for Hopkins. Generally, only paramedics see resuscitations like this.

18. Madison Bumgarner: Still carries marquee presence. Gets a mulligan for his debut season in Arizona.

19. Christian Kirk: Local product and ascending NFL wide receiver.

20. Bobby Hurley: Getting ready to soar up this list.

21. Phil Mickelson: His connection to the Valley is thinning, but he is verified ASU legend, the tie that binds forever. He keeps getting bigger and skinnier with age. He drops out of the list if he again blows off the Waste Management Phoenix Open like he did in 2020.

22. Kliff Kingsbury: Coach Bro will own this town — along with Old Town Scottsdale — if he makes the playoffs this season. For now, he and his offense are moving in reverse.

23. Kenyan Drake: Erratic season in 2020, but has 15 touchdowns in 18 games with Arizona. Will play a big role in the final month of the season.

24. David Peralta: Fan favorite rallied to put up respectable numbers in 2020.

25. Patrick Peterson: Once a highly-entertaining, headline performer in Arizona. The next five weeks will determine his legacy in the Valley.

Others receiving votes: Dave Pasch, Kole Calhoun, Jayden Daniels, Chase Edmonds and the Gorilla.

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