Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2001

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Megalopolitan Life

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Best Of :: Megalopolitan Life

Best Professional Athlete (Team Sport)

In the past 12 months, the sky has fallen on many of Phoenix's sports superstars. Jason Kidd, Aeneas Williams, Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick have all been sent down the road. The only local sports team not in a total rebuilding mode is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling have had their usual superb seasons, and free-agent acquisition Mark Grace has been nothing short of stellar. But one player looms larger than the rest: Luis Gonzalez. The trade that brought Gonzo to Arizona from Detroit for Karim Garcia in 1999 didn't get as much press as the Randy Johnson signing or the Curt Schilling trade, but it may have been the deal that put the Diamondbacks over the top. Not only has Gonzalez's batting average hovered around the .340 mark this season, but he had 51 home runs at press time. He was voted to the starting lineup for the National League in the All-Star Game (and won the Home Run Derby over Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, to boot), and was named NL Player of the Month in April and June.

All this, and he's the father of 3-year-old triplets, too. Anyone who can handle the pressures of the media spotlight and the home front has to be a star in our book.

Readers' Choices

Best Movie Theater
Harkins Theatres

Best Movie Theater Snacks
Harkins Theatres

Best News Station
KTVK-TV Channel 3

Best Politician
John McCain

Best Professional Athlete
Luis Gonzalez

Best Pro Sports Team
Arizona Diamondbacks

Best Radio Personality
Krazy Kid and Ruben S.
KISS-FM 104.7

Best Spanish Language TV Station
Telemundo

Best Tourist Trap
Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse
23023 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-502-1880

Best TV Newscaster
Brad Perry

Best Professional Athlete (Individual Sport)

In his native Kazakhstan, International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov learned to develop his boxing footwork by being forced to outrace angry police dogs down a narrow hallway. By comparison, facing a 190-pound pugilist in the boxing ring has to seem like a snap. Sure enough, the self-proclaimed Russian Tiger -- who moved to Scottsdale in 1996 after winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics -- has cruised through his unheralded weight division like it's just a preliminary to some anticipated main event. That main event would be either a heavyweight title shot or a step down to take on light-heavyweight king Roy Jones Jr. But, with his unmatched knockout percentage and relentless body-attacking style, Jirov might continue to be a victim of his own success, scaring away opponents unwilling to tangle with a tiger.

Best Place To See A Skiploader Up Close

This is the Valley's most splendid tribute to the equipment that paved the Garden of Eden, courtesy of designer Bill Tonnesen. Even before you reach the renovated interior, the building's exterior walls and courtyard are designed to praise the visual virtues of the company's earthmoving tools -- mostly Caterpillars. Just about every surface and nook celebrates the sculptural appeal of big loud things that dig, split, drill, scrape and core. At Empire, it's all about blades, pistons and bits done up as pure decor. But be prepared: The weight and size of the details tend to leave first-time visitors gape-mouthed and asking, "What kind of rig did that come from?"

Best Public Art

There's a rare spiritual resonance about this work, created by artist James Carpenter in collaboration with the Richard Meier Architectural Firm. It can be found inside the cylindrical glass-and-steel courtroom at the west end of the atrium at the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse. The parabolic glass ceiling hangs like the lens of a clear-seeing eye on a spider web of metal cables and connectors. The beauty of it is in the subtle way its craftsmanship and precision rise above the merely practical. They make poetry of what law books lay out in dull prose and the courts themselves sometimes ignore: that the illuminating search for truth and justice should focus the mind on every fact, large and small -- dimpled chad or not.

Best Public Art At A Shopping Mall

Our earliest memories of late '60s/early '70s life in the Valley are not of tubing the Salt River or visiting the Phoenix Zoo, but -- well, okay, we admit it -- shopping. The best excursions were to the elegant Biltmore Fashion Park, where we recall peeking in the windows at Rosenzweig's Jewelers and Mills Touche, and wondering what that Red Door at Elizabeth Arden's could possibly mean.

But we most fondly remember Saks Fifth Avenue, the highest-end store in the city, a sensory whirl of perfume in the air, pristine jewelry on display, and customers who looked like they could afford it. The more subdued exterior was a treat, too: a desert-tan backdrop with sandstone mosaics designed in 1963 by artist John Smith.

Several years ago, Saks relocated elsewhere in the mall, and we were dismayed to see the mosaics come down. But some nostalgic soul salvaged some of the work, and turned it into a garden installation that you can visit just east of the original Saks -- a priceless bit of Phoenix at a cost everyone can enjoy.

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Best Professional Athlete (Team Sport): Luis Gonzalez

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