The best Arizona athletes in history as determined by the number they wore on their back. The first edition is 00-33 only but that doesn't mean there aren't some great debates.
Look, reader, I like lists and if page views on my typical list are any indication, you like them, too. Since we both seem to like lists, why should we mess with a good thing? That would be like saying, I really like steak but for no apparent reason I want to have a FILA shoe for dinner.
I'm sure you're familiar with this concept and it's typically a fun one. I'm going to go through Arizona sports history and pick out the player that defined the number they wore. Distilled down to an easier form ... who was the best guy to wear every number?
As has become standard on my lists, you're only considered if you suited up for the team when they were in Arizona. So apologies to that one commenter who hated me in my Top Five Worst QBs column and to all Winnipeg Jets fans (although I do own a Winnipeg Jets t-shirt). Outside of that? Anything goes ... except for college, because that research sounds exhausting.
I should apologize in advance if I forgot your favorite Phoenix Roadrunner or Firebird; feel free to send all complaints to Seth Pollack.
If I did 00-99 all on the same column, we'd have over a 6,000 word piece, so I've broken it into thirds. First up is 00-33:
00 - Tony Delk (Phoenix Suns 2000-2002) - His competition is not exactly stiff (ok, it's non-existent), but Delk did play a season and a half for the Suns and even posted a 53-point game against Sacramento in 2001. He was eventually dealt to Boston in the Joe Johnson trade.
Also considered: There is nobody else
0 - Jerrod Mustaf (Phoenix Suns 1991-1994) - I assure you I'm as unhappy about this as you are. Mustaf played 117 games for the Suns as mostly a benchwarmer. He was bad at basketball.
Also considered: Randy Brown, Walter McCarty
1 - Amar'e Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns 2006-2010) - Though he sported number 32 for the early part of his career, STAT was in full beast mode when he switched to number 1. Stoudemire was an All-Star in all four of his Phoenix seasons in the number and was one of the best power forwards in the NBA.
Also considered: Penny Hardaway, Neil Rackers
2 - Joe Johnson (Phoenix Suns 2001-2005) - Johnson may have blossomed when the Suns dealt him to Atlanta in 2005, but in his final two years in Phoenix, he averaged over 16 points a game and was a key cog in the first season of the Seven Seconds or Less era.
Also considered: Keith Ballard, Elliot Perry, and (soon) Goran Dragic
3 - Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury 2004-present) - This is the first number that actually has some remote competition, but Taurasi is an MVP and two-time champion. That trumps just about anything else.
Also considered: Rex Chapman, Keith Yandle, Timm Rosenbach
4 - Kyle Macy (Phoenix Suns 1980-1985) - A point guard on some of the excellent Suns teams of the early 80s, Macy averaged over 14 points per game in his second season with the team. Maybe if Counsell had scored the winning run of the World Series for Arizona like he did for the Marlins, he'd have warranted more consideration.
Also considered: Zbynek Michalek (obviously), Craig Counsell, Michael Finley
5 - Dick Van Arsdale (Phoenix Suns 1968-1977) - I swear this list isn't going to be just Suns, but anytime someone is nicknamed "The Original ______" he's on the list. Except Brian Anderson. Van Arsdale was a three-time All-Star for Phoenix and has been a fixture in the organization since its inception. He's the only Sun to ever wear number 5.
Also considered: Tony Womack, Ben Graham
6 - Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns 1978-1988) - OK, it's just because the Suns have been around the longest. Davis was the 1978 Rookie of the Year, a six-time All-Star, and consistent 20-point-per-game scorer for the Suns. Like Van Arsdale with 5, Davis is the only Sun to wear number 6.
Also considered: Stephen Drew
7 - Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns 1989-2000) - I assume some of the hockey folks would want to go Tkachuk here, but anytime I have a chance to put KJ on a list, I'm going to do it. In the early 90s, KJ was a walking 20-10 threat and could get to the basket at will. Though he struggled with injuries in the middle part of his career, he's still one of the best point guards in Suns history.
Also considered: Keith Tkachuck, Michelle Timms, not Matt Leinart
8 - Eddie Johnson (Phoenix Suns 1987-1991) - Eddie Johnson could flat out score the basketball. Despite starting just seven games in the 1988-89 season, EJ still averaged over 20 points and was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. Bonus points for presently being bat-shit crazy on Suns television broadcasts.
Also considered: Daniel Briere, Channing Frye
9 - Dan Majerle (Phoenix Suns 1988-1995, 2002) - Thunder Dan may have been famously booed by Suns fans upon being selected in the 1988 NBA draft, but that didn't last long. Majerle was a three-time All-Star and was initially known for his crushing dunks until he developed an impressive three point stroke. The fact that he was traded to Cleveland for Hot Rod Williams sits well with nobody.
Also considered: Matt Williams
10 - Justin Upton (Arizona Diamondbacks 2007-present) - Call this a peek into the future. I could have gone Leandro Barbosa, but that's going to look pretty stupid after a few more seasons of Upton. The D-Backs rightfielder has already been an All-Star and provided his health holds, he's got the physical skills to add a decade more of those.
Also considered: Leandro Barbosa, Oleg Tverdovsky, Scott Player
11 - Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals 2004-present) - There was no other choice. Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the game and provided the Cardinals can find him a quarterback, he may go down as one of the all-time greats. His 2008 playoff performance is basically without peer.
Also considered: Nobody important
12 - Steve Finley (Arizona Diamondbacks 1999-2004) - Finley was the centerfielder in what is the golden era for D-Backs baseball to this point. Though he was 34 years old when he arrived in the Valley, he slugged 153 home runs in parts of six seasons and also won three Gold Gloves.
Also considered: Josh McCown, Mike Johnson (Coyotes)
13 - Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns 1996-1998, 2004-present) - This was probably the most contentious number on this list, particularly considering my man-crush on Kurt Warner. Nash hasn't taken the Suns to the NBA Finals, but he has helped to put them in the Western Conference Finals on three occasions and has won two MVPs. It's close, Kurt. It's close.
Also considered: Kurt Warner (if he'd won the Super Bowl, I'd have him as the winner), Penny Taylor
14 - Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix Suns 1986-1992) - A second round pick out of Iowa State in 1986, Hornacek quickly blossomed into a star for the Suns with his dead-eye shooting and gritty play. He made an All-Star appearance in 1992 before being dealt to Philadelphia in the Charles Barkley deal.
Also considered: Keith Erickson
15 - Dan Haren (Arizona Diamondbacks 2008-2010) - He may have only been around for two and a half years, but Haren was a two-time All-Star in his short time pitching for the D-Backs and was a Cy Young contender in both 2008 and 2009.
Also considered: Neil Lomax (only one season in Arizona), Robin Lopez, Shawn Green, Radoslav Suchy
16 - Jake Plummer (Arizona Cardinals 1997-2002) - His career record as a starter for the Cardinals was just 30-52, but he led the team on their magical 1998 playoff run and was incredibly fun to watch. Also warrants mentioning that he wore the same number when dominating at Arizona State.
Also considered: Reggie Sanders, Petr Prucha, Rich Camarillo
17 - Brandon Webb (Arizona Diamondbacks 2005-present) - Webb wore number 55 the first couple seasons of his career, but really took off when sporting number 17. Before the injury disasters of 2009 and 2010, Webb won the 2006 Cy Young and finished second the next two years. When healthy, he was a stud.
Also considered: Mark Grace, Louis Amundson, Ladislav Nagy
18 - John "Hot Rod" Williams (Phoenix Suns 1995-1998) - This is not so much a carrot for Hot Rod as it is an indictment of the crap wearing this number in Arizona sports history. Besides being a massive disappointment and general big lug at center, Williams is most widely known as costing the Suns Dan Majerle.
Also considered: Chad Tracy, Tyson Nash (seriously)
19 - Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes 1996-present) - This guy has been on the Coyotes since they showed up in Phoenix. Doan is a two-time All-Star and has defined the franchise for more than a decade. Clotheslining Kobe Bryant is cool and all, but it isn't as good as this.
Also considered: Raja Bell
20 - Luis Gonzalez (Arizona Diamondbacks 1999-2006) - In eight years with the D-Backs, Gonzalez cracked 224 home runs and was a five-time All-Star. Oh yea, and he also got the game-winning hit in the freaking World Series.
Also considered: Maurice Lucas (who was about one World Series-winning hit away from real consideration)
21 - Antrel Rolle (Arizona Cardinals 2005-2009) - I'll admit that I went with Rolle basically because he won a coin flip against Truck Robinson; those Suns cannot catch a coin flip break. Rolle played five seasons for the Cardinals and managed to re-purpose himself as a safety after beginning as a disappointing, highly selected cornerback. He made the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Also considered: Truck Robinson
22 - Larry Nance (Phoenix Suns 1981-1988) - He's probably more known as a Cavalier by the outside Arizona public, but Nance was excellent for the Suns throughout most of the 1980s. Not only was Nance a 1985 NBA All-Star, but he also won the inaugural dunk contest in 1984. He was the key piece dealt to Cleveland that produced Kevin Johnson and Mark West.
Also considered: Devon White, Danny Ainge, Jennifer Gillom
23 - Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury 2006-2009) - Like Taurasi, Pondexter was a part of two WNBA champions and was the MVP of the Finals in 2007. She was also First Team All-WNBA in her final season with the Mercury before forcing her way to New York.
Also considered: Jason Richardson, Cedric Ceballos
24 - Adrian Wilson (Arizona Cardinals 2002-present) - This is a wildly competitive number, but Wilson (who wore #22 as a rookie) has been an elite safety in the NFL almost since the moment he stepped on the field. A-Dub is a three-time Pro Bowler and was a First Team All-Pro last season.
Also considered: Tom Chambers, Dennis Johnson, Chris Young
25 - Gail Goodrich (Phoenix Suns 1968-1970) - Goodrich was only a Sun for two seasons, but considering the competition, it's hard to ignore his two over 20-point-per-game seasons and his 1969 All-Star appearance.
Also considered: John Wetzel, David Delucci, Oliver Miller
26 - Damian Miller (Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2002) - Miller would never be confused for a threat to hit 30 home runs, but he made himself into a solid starting catcher for the D-Backs and was even an All-Star in 2002. Solid wins the day when compared to the rest of the options.
Also considered: Miguel Montero, Chuck Cecil, Beanie Wells, Orlando Hernandez
27 - Teppo Numminen (Phoenix Coyotes 1996-2003) - The Repo Man was the captain of the Coyotes for two seasons and now sits as the only non-Jet in the Coyotes Ring of Honor. He made three All-Star appearances for Phoenix.
Also considered: Mark Reynolds
28 - Tommy Bennett (Arizona Cardinals 1996-2000) - No, the safety from UCLA wasn't really that good, but who did you want here? Andrew Lang? Bennett started 40 games for the Cardinals in his five seasons with the team.
Also considered: Andrew Lang, Greg Colbrunn
29 - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Arizona Cardinals 2008-present) - DRC is entering just his third year in the NFL, but he's already been to a Pro Bowl and is developing into a shutdown corner. The fact that this is a question will be laughable in two years.
Also considered: Paul Silas, Adrian Murrell
30 - Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix Coyotes 2008-present) - Bryz has only recently begun to assert himself (he was an All-Star last season and led the Coyotes to the playoffs for the first time in what seemed like 50 years), but I felt like the Coyotes deserved a little more love here. Remember, my rules. Sorry, Cliff Robinson.
Also considered: Clifford Robinson, Gregg Olson, Todd Stottlemyre
31 - Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns 1999-2008) - In his nearly nine seasons with the Suns, the Matrix was a four-time All-Star. Though Marion was very good in the early part of his career, he thrived in the Seven Seconds or Less system. When Amar'e Stoudemire was out with injury during 2005-2006, Marion averaged career highs in both points and rebounds (21.8/11.8).
Also considered: Matt Mantei, Marcel Shipp
32 - Jason Kidd (Phoenix Suns 1997-2001) - Phoenix acquired Kidd during the '96-97 season in exchange for Michael Finley and he quickly ascended to being one of the best point guards in the game. Though he had yet to develop his jump shot, he had the size and strength to get to the basket whenever he felt like it. Kidd was First Team All-NBA three times, First Team All-Defensive twice, and a four-time All-Star in his time in Phoenix.
Also considered: Amar'e Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal, Edgerrin James
33 - Alvan Adams (Phoenix Suns 1975-1988) - Adams played his entire 13 year career with the Suns and was one of the top big men in franchise history, despite being just 6'9. His numbers were never spectacular (14/7 for his career), but he was consistently above average. No shame in that.
Also considered: Grant Hill, Jay Bell, Brian Boucher
Tune in whenever I feel like it for the next installment of By the Numbers.