The best Arizona sports performances of 2021
Hey, how about that. Another year down. Look at us.
2021 provided us a fair share of Arizona sports memories through some great individual performances.
As usual, it was a mixed bag across the board, but even some of the more lethargic team seasons brought a few great moments.
Let’s roll through a few.
June 20: Devin Booker’s first triple-double
“Here we go again. Classic Arizona sports.”
Devin Booker wasn’t having it with any of that moping when Chris Paul came down with COVID-19 prior to the Phoenix Suns’ matchup in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Booker recorded his first career triple-double in Game 1 of the series, a 40-point masterpiece with 13 rebounds and 11 assists on 15-of-29 shooting. It was only the third 40-point triple-double in the history of the conference finals. It should go down as one of the best playoff performances in franchise history and has a case for ranking at the top.
The now-25-year-old orchestrated the entire game, scoring or assisting 49 of the Suns’ 63 points in the second half. Booker recorded 11 points, six rebounds and five assists in the fourth quarter alone.
A secondary shoutout to Cam Payne filling in for Paul the next game, contributing 29 points, nine assists, two steals, two blocks and zero turnovers in the Suns’ Game 2 victory.
Aug. 14: Tyler Gilbert’s no-hitter
Boy, was it a long year for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Inside of it, though, was one rather cool moment.
Left-hander Tyler Gilbert made the first start of his career in mid-August and proceeded to throw a no-hitter. He did it, no less, against the loaded San Diego Padres batting order.
Gilbert became the first pitcher since 1953 to toss a no-hitter in their first-ever start and the fourth all-time. Quick, name that pitcher! It’s on the tip of your tongue! Time’s up! It was the St. Louis Browns’ Bobo Holloman, of course!
Arizona had acquired Gilbert in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft that offseason. Gilbert is under contract for next season and had a 3.47 ERA, which could have him in line to compete for a spot in the backend of the rotation.
Sept. 12: Chandler Jones’ 5 sacks
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 13, 2021
The Arizona Cardinals’ Week 1 win against the Tennesse Titans was surprising for a few reasons, starting with Arizona’s tremendous effort to keep All-Pro Titans running back Derrick Henry a non-factor.
That was in large part thanks to a Cardinals defensive line that won the line of scrimmage all day, one that pass rusher Chandler Jones dominated to the tune of five sacks and a few plays on Henry as well.
The five sacks tied a franchise record and set a new career high for Jones, one of the NFL’s best pass rushers in the last decade.
Jones was so good that he inspired Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan to tweet this:
Got my ass kicked today, no way around that. I let the team and the fans down. Thank you @chanjones55 for exposing me. It will only force me to get better.
— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) September 12, 2021
Jones was later named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, obviously.
Nov. 13: Rachaad White’s 237 total yards vs. Washington
We’ve seen our fair share of impressive one-man performances out of Arizona State running backs, and the latest came in 2021 from senior Rachaad White in Seattle.
White carried the ball 32 times for 184 yards for two touchdowns and also caught five passes for 52 yards in the Sun Devils’ 35-30 win.
With Arizona State trailing 24-14 in the opening stretch of the fourth quarter, White accounted for 64 of ASU’s 81 yards on a nine-minute touchdown drive during which he got 11 touches.
After a three-and-out for Washington, it was Sun Devils ball down three with under four minutes to go and it was White leading the charge again. He had five of the eight touches on a 51-yard touchdown drive that ended in his own 10-yard score with 1:11 left. An ASU pick-six on the next drive iced the game.
White earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his outing.
June 30: Chris Paul sends Suns to NBA Finals
Let’s be honest, the Suns deserve two spots.
Paul had two excellent closeout efforts in back-to-back series but the best one had to be Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in LA.
The Point God scored 31 of his 41 points in the second half, including a stretch of 3:49 in which he had 14 of the Suns’ 16 points that increased their lead from seven to 20, effectively ending the game.
Paul shot 16-of-24 from the field and added four rebounds, eight assists and three steals to get the Suns to their first Finals since 1993.
That was the great local scope on it, but for Paul specifically, it was an excellent hush of the haters he’s had over his career that have wrongly labeled him as a guy who doesn’t perform in the postseason.
Paul also did that to his former team in their building after being out with COVID-19 and dealing with a shoulder issue, partially torn ligaments in his right hand and a left wrist injury that would later require surgery. Yeah, put this one down right alongside Booker’s in the franchise history books.