Sports & Recreation

  • Best Hike You'll Never Do

    Red Mountain (a.k.a. Mount McDowell)

    The Valley's a real valley, in case you never noticed, and it's surrounded by numerous, picturesque desert mountains. Most are contained within governmental recreation areas, making them easy to park near and hike up. But not Red Mountain, located on the eastern side of the Salt River Pima- Maricopa Indian Community. The eye-pleasing reddish hue and steep, weather-worn cliffs make Red… More >>
  • Best Adventure Hike

    Four Peaks after a snowstorm

    Hiking to the top of Brown's Peak, the tallest summit of Four Peaks, can be a challenge for people in the best conditions. Brown's Trail, the typical summit route, is about four miles round-trip and steep in places. Hands-on scrambling is required near the top of the gully close to the summit. After a wet year, like this one, the… More >>
  • Best Night Hike

    South Mountain Pima Canyon

    At 7 p.m., the gate closes off the park road leading into Pima Canyon, near the northeast tip of Phoenix's extraordinary South Mountain Park/Preserve. Cars can't get back in there — but you can. A ranger told us recently that night hikers or bikers are good to go, even after hours. (He added that if police catch you out there… More >>
  • Best Grand Canyon Training Hike

    Phoenix Mountains Recreation Area/Piestewa Peak

    We've hiked the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back up in a day many times, and only once did the climb out nearly do us in. On that fateful trip, somewhere between Indian Gardens and the three-mile rest stop on the Bright Angel trail, as our quads seemed ready to pull off the bone, we vowed never again… More >>
  • Best Wildflower Hike

    Usery Mountain Regional Park, Pass Mountain Loop

    This may be our all-time favorite hike in the Valley. If you want to see the Sonoran Desert in its entire splendor, head to Usery and rock the Pass Mountain Loop hike. Just make sure it's between February and May when our unique vegetation actually looks fertile (for once). Yes, the saguaros will be tipped with white blossoms; the ocotillo… More >>
  • Best Petroglyph Hike

    Kiwanis Trail, South Mountain

    For this award, we're not talking about a petroglyph "hike" that barely tips the quarter-mile mark. In our book, walking a few hundred feet in dirt just doesn't count. So when we trekked the two-mile Kiwanis Trail in South Mountain, we not only felt like justified hikers, we got to spy some sweet petroglyphs along the way. The trail runs… More >>
  • Best Wheelchair Hike

    West Park Accessible Trail at Papago Park

    Grandpa is pushing 90, and he's on the way out. A couple strokes down, he's still got enough fire to get out of bed and into a wheelchair (but that's about it). Snap out of your denial and take the old soul out for a stroll in our beautiful desert on the Accessible Trail at Papago Park. This paved path… More >>
  • Best Dog Hike

    Shaw Butte, Trail 306

    Sure, walks around the block get the pup to stop being such a spaz (and keep the little guy from doggy obesity), but, just like humans, sometimes canines need a little change of scenery. We recommend Shaw Butte for your dog's next outdoor adventure. Heading west from the trailhead, take trail 306. The uphill trek starts off with a wide… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, West Valley

    PetSmart Dog Park at Washington Park

    We know too many parks in the Valley where dog owners take over, allowing their antsy and often-aggressive canines to run free and trample (sometimes literally) the rights of all others. Time and again, we have fantasized about "rescuing" some feral pit bulls from south of the border and setting them loose in said parks as we announce to the… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, East Valley

    Cosmo Dog Park

    It doesn't take a whole lot to please a dog — a field and a ball will often do the trick — but the city of Gilbert is home to a park for pooches so impressive that even humans have taken notice. Cosmo Dog Park is widely regarded as the best dog park in the East Valley and was even… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Playground

    Hudson Park

    This three-acre neighborhood park has it all: basketball courts, sand volleyball pit, grassy open spaces, a hippie labyrinth complete with a Dalai Lama quotation set in one of many tile mosaics, an adorable skate park with its own half-pipe, and the most wholesome people-watching this side of Mill Avenue (which isn't far, in case you have a hankering for some… More >>
  • Best Indoor Playground

    Makutu's Island

    Makutu's Island is like Chuck E. Cheese on steroids. It has taller slides and higher tubes, plus nets for crawling. And it's more colorful — and possibly even louder — than its mousy cousin. On a busy day, packs of screaming kids run through the 20,000-square-foot facility, sliding down poles, climbing across catwalks or plunking tokens in the game room.… More >>
  • Best Place for Kids to Bounce

    Pump It Up - CLOSED

    Got a kid who's got the wiggles? Get over to Pump It Up, where even in the dead of summer, kids can get their bounce on in a multi-room setup with huge slides and a whole neighborhood of bouncy houses. Be sure to consult Pump It Up's website before you load the kids in the minivan, as this is a… More >>
  • Best Place for Adults to Bounce


    Ever get the urge to jump around like a kid sucking down Pixy Stix and jamming to whatever pretty-haired teen idol of the moment is dominating the charts? Go on, admit it. There's no shame in loving a good bounce. Chandler's jumpstreet offers a unique opportunity to relive your childhood by jumping much, much higher than your feeble muscles would… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Haunted House

    Fear Farm

    We're not easily spooked. We usually find the sight of geeky teenage boys growling at us from behind Halloween masks more funny than scary. But Fear Farm makes it easy to suspend disbelief for a few hours. The sprawling setting — three sections of dark trail through a cornfield and one old building on the outskirts of Glendale — is… More >>
  • Best Indoor Haunted House

    The Gauntlet at Golfland Sunsplash

    Considering that it's crammed into the upstairs of a family fun center specializing in arcade games, miniature golf, and go-carts, it's nothing short of amazing that The Gauntlet manages to feel like a must-see Halloween attraction. Though the space is small, there appears to be no expense spared and no detail unrefined. Take the live mice, for example. Those with… More >>
  • Best Physically Fit Show of Christmas Spirit

    Mountaintop decorations

    We're not sure how or why they appear, but you know it's the Christmas season in the Valley when saguaros atop Phoenix's two tallest points — Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak — get the Griswold treatment. We're not sure who lugs bulbs, garland, and battery-powered lights more than 1,000 vertical feet up the rugged trails, but it fills our hearts… More >>
  • Best Place to Live Out Your Eva Peron Fantasies

    New Year's Weekend Arabian Farm Tour

    Just after Christmas, the Valley's most prestigious Arabian horse farms throw open their gates and let the public see what the fuss is all about. It's an unexpected blend of equine beauty, foreign money, and sophisticated social networking. And for five days (this time around the days are December 29, 2010 through January 2, 2011), the rest of us poor… More >>
  • Best Place to Learn to Pole Dance

    Express MiE Dance Fitness and Pole Dancing Studio

    This place is a little hard to find, tucked in the back of a popular shopping center, but it's totally worth the search. The space offers two pole-dance studios — one large one for group classes, and a smaller space for private, all-female parties. We hear women of all sizes and ages who are "taking pole" asking each other in… More >>
  • Best Place to Drink While Your Kid Plays Hockey

    Alltel Ice Den

    The ideas of hockey and ice may be a strange concept for many Valley residents, so a drink or two might be in order to get you to warm up to the idea of hanging out in the freezing cold. The Alltel Ice Den understands this, which is probably why they've included a bar in their already excellent facility. The… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Your Game On

    Gamers' Inn

    If you've ever wondered which magical rock fantasy-gaming addicts are hiding under, look no further than Gamers' Inn. The place is heaven for serious gamers, with 500-plus board games, dollar-an-hour multiplayer LAN stations, and a selection of Magic: The Gathering cards that would rival the One Ring in evil power if placed in the wrong hands. You know those crazy… More >>
  • Best Indoor Shooting Range

    Caswells Shooting Range

    Caswells beats any other indoor shooting range in the Valley, for a number of reasons. First, Caswells is a firearm retailer, which means visitors can buy or rent a wide variety of guns and ammo. The indoor range at Caswells has awesome air conditioning, so patrons don't have to sweat it out while shooting, and the targets are movable (they… More >>
  • Best Junior Marksmen Program

    Rio Salado Sportsman's Club

    The junior marksmen program at Rio Salado Sportsman's Club focuses on small-bore (.22-caliber) rifle shooting, and boasts some of the best junior marksmen in Arizona. Shooters who've gone through the program at Rio Salado include two-time National Junior Olympics competitor Tanya Gorin; Christine Costello, who recently graduated from the University of Nebraska on a full scholarship from the Huskers rifle… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Shooting Range

    Ben Avery Shooting Facility

    Ben Avery is the largest publicly operated shooting facility in the United States, sprawling over 1,650 acres near Lake Pleasant. It has a proud history among sportsmen and was the site of the World Shooting Championships in 1970. Gun enthusiasts and law enforcement officers regularly practice on the main and specialty ranges, which include an archery range. Ben Avery also… More >>
  • Best Place to Go Dove Hunting

    Fields around Stanfield, Arizona

    You wouldn't necessarily know it by reading the local daily newspaper, but tens of thousands of Arizonans go dove hunting every year starting September 1. If you're not a hunter, the only way to tell for sure that dove-hunting season is approaching is if you go to Walmart and spot a 12-foot-high pyramid of shotgun-shell boxes on sale. We know… More >>
  • Best Place to Access the Superstition Mountains If Lost Dutchman Park Closes (Or Even If It Doesn't)

    First Water Trailhead

    Lovers of the outdoors pooled their money this year to keep Lost Dutchman State Park open after severe budget cuts by the Legislature. After $26,000 was raised from private sources, officials announced the park — a major gateway to the East Valley's Superstition Mountains — would remain open. But there's no assurance the state will fix its financial problems next… More >>
  • Best Mine Tour

    Goldfield Ghost Town

    For years, when hiking on the west flanks of the Superstition Mountains, we wondered where the hell that train-whistle noise was coming from. This year, we found out — it's the whistle above the mine at the Goldfield Ghost Town. And we're happy to know, because the mine turns out to be a slice of Arizona we should have experienced… More >>
  • Best Activity for Out-of-Town Guests

    Dolly Steamboat Tours

    Just when you think you've exhausted every "touristy" event in Phoenix to take your visiting Aunt Sally, something new pops up on the horizon. In this case, it pops up in a canyon. After finding this little gem of a tour, we're shocked at how few people know about it. The Dolly Steamboat winds its way through the breathtaking waterways… More >>
  • Best Lake Camping

    Apache Lake

    Camping doesn't get much better than sitting on a secluded, sandy beach at Apache Lake, listening to the water lap at your boat and falling asleep under the stars. We try to get out there once every couple of years or so, motoring far away from the shoreline-picnickers. Numerous dry arroyos run into the lake from the surrounding desert, and… More >>
  • Best Swimming Hole

    The Water Wheel, in Tonto National Forest

    We had a terrible scare last year when The Water Wheel fire broke out north of Payson. The fire ate up nearly 800 acres of precious pine and forced the evacuation of two subdivisions. It did not, however, destroy the beautiful swimming hole that gave the disaster its name. The trees along Houston Mesa Road are scorched black, but the… More >>
  • Best Urban Kayaking

    Tempe Town Lake

    Arizona is blessed with a wide array of lakes, creeks, and rivers perfect for kayaking. The only problem is that if you want to see them, you have to devote a large chunk of your day to getting there. Tempe Town Lake is the solution to this problem. Unless you'd rather take a spin down a disgusting irrigation canal, Tempe… More >>
  • Best Water Park

    Oasis Water Park at the Arizona Grand Resort

    Phoenix is known to have a few sweet places to cool down. When the Pointe South Mountain became the Arizona Grand Resort, the hotel and its pool got a facelift. What was once a glorified watering hole has become a seven-acre fun park. If you're up for a rush, take Slide Canyon Tower and choose among three slides, with 51-… More >>
  • Best Skateboard Park

    Goodyear Skate Park

    One of dozens of skate parks in Arizona, the Goodyear Skate Park is a favorite for skaters, thanks to a design that works for both amateurs and pro-skaters.For Goodyear's concrete playground, SITE Design Group included a full-pipe capsule, a 280-foot-long snake run with multiple hips and extensions, an 11-foot-deep peanut bowl with traditional pool tile and coping and a large… More >>
  • Best Place to Go Off-Roading

    Sycamore Creek

    The Valley used to be one giant off-roading mecca — just look at those old jeep-trail scars running up the sides of South Mountain. Driving has been banned from most of the mountain areas by now, and most of the 4x4 roads in and around Phoenix have been transformed into neighborhoods. But plenty of places remain where you can "tear… More >>
  • Best Motorcycle Gang

    The Scooter Club of Metro Phoenix

    Though Hells Angels boss Sonny Barger lives in Cave Creek, our favorite Valley motor-powered cyclist is Glen Galatan, president of the Scooter Club of Metro Phoenix. SCMP events have dramatically fewer bonfires, orgies, and fistfights, but we won't hold that against them — it's cool to see events like last year's "Fiesta" in Gilbert, which featured family-friendly contests, a raffle,… More >>
  • Best Go-Kart Racing

    F1 Race Factory

    We bruised our spine the first time we went to F1 — that's how addicting the place is. We overdid it, clearly, and might do so again. Luckily, the raceway wasn't crowded when we showed up at 11:30 on a Sunday morning. Minutes later, we had slipped on a helmet and were strapped into a kart. The burst of adrenaline… More >>
  • Best Bowling

    Squaw Peak Lanes - CLOSED

    Here's how much we love Squaw Peak Lanes: The last time we were there, our cocktail server dumped an entire tray of drinks in our lap. Still, we keep returning because this place is so clean and modern and comfortable that it compares to no other alley in town. The snack bar offers more than just the usual popcorn and… More >>
  • Best Miniature Golf

    Jambo! Indoor Amusement Park - CLOSED

    For much of the year, it's too hot to walk outside, let alone take the kids to the plastic greens for a round of mini-golf. Jambo! is the answer. It offers an 18-hole miniature golf course surrounded by jungle animals — lions and tigers and hippos. You get the picture. Think pizza, ice cream, rides, games, and birthday parties with… More >>
  • Best Free Driving Range

    The train tracks west of Casey Moore's, Tempe

    Tempe residents don't need no stinkin' driving range. They live near one of the straightest fairways in all of Arizona: the railroad tracks that run right through the center of town. It's not exactly legal — nor is it safe — and we're not saying we recommend anyone actually do it, but we imagine it's a great spot to really… More >>
  • Best Driving Range

    Fiddlesticks Family Fun Park - CLOSED

    Considering how golf-mad Arizona is, you might expect to find more mega-ranges like south Tempe's Fiddlesticks spread across our green-with-wastewater Valley. Not really. This large range is well lit in the hot desert evenings and open late, featuring a two-story tee structure to maximize space and 60 grass tee boxes for purists looking for the realest deal they can get.… More >>
  • Best Golf Cart

    Kierland Golf Club

    When it comes to golf carts, Kierland Golf Club is still the best for one reason: air conditioning. Kierland already had top-of-the-line carts, but about two years ago, the course took what was already state of the art and cooled it off with G2 air conditioners designed by Phoenix based company Coolwell Inc. Some say using a cart is lazy;… More >>
  • Best Summer Golf Course

    TPC Scottsdale

    Chances are, you're not good enough to play at TPC Scottsdale, and you have no business ever setting foot on the course to do anything but watch the pros. Be that as it may, it's fun to pretend, and in the summer you can pretend on the cheap. For $65, you can play where the pros play and enjoy all… More >>
  • Best Winter Golf Course

    Ken McDonald Golf Course

    We all love to play the pro courses, and in the Valley there's no shortage of great greens. The problem, however, is that if you want to play them in the winter, you may have to find a second job. That's why summer golfers at Troon North or TPC Scottsdale often find their way to the public courses once the… More >>
  • Best Golf Hole

    10th Hole, Pointe Golf Course on Lookout Mountain

    We're always on the lookout for a beautiful view on a golf course (yeah, we know . . .), what with our collective game being so darned lousy that we need an excuse to be out there. Well, the par-4 10th at this North Phoenix resort does it for us, and then some. It starts with the tee box, more than 10 stories… More >>
  • Best Golf Hole for Your Ego

    11th hole at Ken McDonald Golf Course

    During a bad round, every golfer has that moment on the golf course when he or she stops and asks, "Why do I play this miserable game?" That's when it happens: One good hole changes your entire outlook and you start thinking about joining the PGA Tour. The 11th hole at the Ken McDonald Golf Course has serious ego-boosting potential.… More >>
  • Best Place to Find Inspiration While Jogging

    ASU Running Track, Student Recreation Complex

    ASU's running track has a lot to offer joggers. Its dirt surface is easier on the feet than asphalt. It's a long-ish 0.44 miles (750 yards), which gives a sense of accomplishment for each lap. And it's safer than dodging SUVs in the streets. The best part, though, is the inspiration: the young men and women showing off their athletic… More >>
  • Best Canal to Walk, Run or Bike, Phoenix

    Highline Canal

    The paved and dirt pathways along the Highline Canal in South Phoenix received some sprucing up recently, making a great recreation spot even better. We've long enjoyed the rural nature of the trail along the Highline, far enough south of Baseline Road to offer real peace and quiet. The hulking gray-green mass of South Mountain graces the skyline to the… More >>
  • Best Canal to Run, Walk, or Bike, Scottsdale

    Arizona Canal

    The Valley's nine canals serve as an oasis to pedestrians and bicyclists who are thrilled to escape the inevitable close calls with Danica Patrick speed demon wanna-bes. We're partial to the part of the Arizona Canal in Scottsdale, near the art galleries and cool little restaurants near Goldwater Boulevard and Fifth Avenue. The Arizona Canal runs 38 miles from Granite… More >>
  • Best Road Bike Ride

    Central Phoenix to Scottsdale/Tempe via Oak Street

    Crossing freeway interchanges on a bicycle sucks, especially in this expressway-heavy place. However, it's possible to avoid that madness, especially if you want to connect from Central Phoenix to Scottsdale and/or Tempe. The secret is Oak Street, a mostly residential road that, thanks to the awesome pedestrian and bicycle overpass at State Route 51, makes it possible (and super fun)… More >>
  • Best Easy Mountain Bike Ride

    Papago Park

    Wanna get your tires dusty without blowing out a lung or risking your neck? Try the tame but fun loop trails of Papago Park, centrally located on the borders of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Access the trailheads from the parking lot on the west side of Galvin Parkway, just across from the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo. Begin on the… More >>
  • Best Kick-Yer-Butt Mountain Bike Ride

    Pass Trail, Usery Mountain Regional Park

    This 7.1-mile ride worked us to the bone. A sign near the trailhead states that mountain bikes are not recommended, but that's just to scare off the wimps. True, we had to carry our bike up several tough, rocky sections, which wasn't fun. But most of the trail is passable on a bike, and you'll be rewarded for the extra… More >>
  • Best Place to Go Rock Climbing

    Queen Creek Canyon Area

    Granite crags like Pinnacle Peak and the McDowell Mountains make the Valley a rock-climbing mecca, but the area's finest collection of sport-climbing routes is found farther east, near Queen Creek Canyon. Not to be confused with the two-horse town near Higley, the climbers' Queen Creek is the general area four miles north of Superior that includes the Oak Flat Campground,… More >>
  • Best Place to Learn Rappeling

    Rappel Gully

    If you've never walked down a vertical rock face, Rappel Gully is the place to learn. The 75-foot climbing route on the Headwall in Camelback Mountain's Echo Canyon is steep, especially at the top, yet isn't too high to intimidate most beginners. Best of all, the anchor for the rappel is what climbers call "bomb-proof." When you set up ropes… More >>
  • Best Free-Solo Rock Climb


    "Now that's extreme!" a young Camelback Mountain hiker shouted to his buddies as he watched us free-solo climb up a cliff. Now, we don't free-solo — which means rock-climbing without the aid of ropes or a partner — to hear such accolades. But it made us feel damned cool, even though the cliff we were on wasn't really extreme, by… More >>
  • Best Indoor Rock Climbing

    The Phoenix Rock Gym

    Why have we belonged to the Phoenix Rock Gym for the past 18 years, you ask? It's not just the walls, which are about 30 feet high and covered in fun, gripable, plastic climbing holds. We don't go just for the world-class bouldering rooms and respectable lead-climbing room, either. Nor for the awesome employees, personable customers (most, anyway), and Cheers-like… More >>
  • Best Indoor Pickup Basketball

    Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center

    Housed inside a modern facility that includes a full-service fitness center and a small high school (Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School) are two regulation hardwood courts that get as much use as any others in the Valley. An open-door policy allows hoop junkies to get out of the blistering sun and off the hard-on-the-knees concrete into an air-conditioned, well-lit… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Pickup Basketball

    Chaparral Park

    It's Saturday morning and the weather is finally cooling down. Swimsuit season may be waning, but a weekly game of pickup basketball may let that six-pack stick around for a few more weeks. Chaparral Park is on 100 acres, has a 10-acre lake and a free-form public swimming pool. The well-lit basketball courts near the community center are open from… More >>
  • Best Tennis Courts

    Kiwanis Park Recreation Center

    Summer in the Valley of the Sun — to put it mildly — sucks to high hell. Almost all outdoor activities must be done at night if you want to avoid being miserable, and tennis is no exception. Luckily, the courts at Kiwanis Park in Tempe have lights, which stay on until 10 p.m. Of course, even summer nights here… More >>
  • Best Batting Cage

    Kiwanis Park Recreation Center

    We give extra props to this outdoor facility because of everything around it — tennis and volleyball courts and shaded picnic areas. But it's all about taking some hacks, working out the kinks (no small task), and getting some rips in before facing the real deal, whether it's a guy throwing gas in a baseball or fast-pitch game, or someone… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Spring Training Game

    Goodyear Ballpark

    Goodyear's sparkling $108 million ballpark may not have the glitz of the other new-in-2008 Cactus League ballpark, Glendale's Camelback Ranch, but it's really grown on us. While the Glendale stadium, which has similarly modern brushed-steel styling, hosts two of the Cactus League's most prominent teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, Goodyear's park pairs smaller-market teams with a… More >>
  • Best High School Athlete

    Corey Hawkins

    We are suckers for a sharpshooter, and senior guard Corey Hawkins more than lured us into the fold. The dude's range is remarkable, and he frees himself for open jump shots by driving the lane with abandon. Corey simply was the best boy's basketball player in Arizona last season, and set an all-time Arizona scoring record for his four-year career,… More >>
  • Best College Coach

    Herb Sendek

    You lose your best player and team nucleus to the first round of the NBA Draft. Then, your four-year starter and team leader gets picked early in the second round. Left behind is a crew of unproven underclassmen. Season over before it begins? Not when Herb Sendek coaches your squad. After the NBA scooped up James Harden (the number-three overall… More >>
  • Best Men's College Team

    Arizona State University baseball

    Everything was topsy-turvy when the ASU Sun Devils baseball team took the field in January for its first regular season game. School honchos unceremoniously had dumped the team's longtime, highly successful coach, the fascinating (we do miss the guy!) Pat Murphy, and asked longtime assistant Tim Esmay to stop the bleeding on an interim basis. We know Coach Esmay, who… More >>
  • Best Women's College Team

    South Mountain Community College Softball

    Phoenix College has dominated the state and national women's junior college fast-pitch softball scene for so long that the other local schools seem to be an afterthought. To put it kindly, the South Mountain C.C. Cougars never had been a factor in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference until this season. Coming out of nowhere, the Cougars upset number-one seed… More >>
  • Best Baseball Star

    Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton

    First of all, we don't consider baseball players real athletes. They're in a skill sport that doesn't require a lot of running and jumping. (We said "a lot.") Hitters in the sport are more like golfers than basketball players — hand-to-eye coordination being the mark of excellence. So, Justin Upton is no Steve Nash. But he is the best professional… More >>
  • Best Comeback Story in Baseball

    Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young

    Last year at this time, we were mystified as to what the hell happened to Chris Young. We couldn't help wondering whether the Diamondbacks center fielder was another in the steroid era who had hit the big leagues with a boom — as in a first-full-year Diamondbacks' record 32 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 2007 (only the eighth… More >>
  • Best Whiffer (Again, Dammit)

    Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds

    It will be difficult for Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds to equal milestones he set last season. He hit 44 home runs, fourth in the National League, and he struck out 223 times, the most in major-league baseball. At press time, Reynolds had a team-leading 32 home runs and was again leading the majors in strikeouts, this time with 206.… More >>
  • Best Cool-Looking (Interim) Manager in the Majors

    Arizona Diamondbacks' Kirk Gibson

    If ever there were a superhero-looking (and -acting) baseball manager, it would square-jawed, stubble-faced Kirk Gibson. He's the man's man who makes going bald as an onion cool. Women find him sexy as hell, guys have a man-crush on him. When the camera pans over to the Arizona Diamondbacks dugout and Gibby, you can see it on his rugged face: He… More >>
  • Best Reason to Believe the D-Backs Can Pull Themselves Up to at Least Mediocre Next Season

    The firing of general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch

    The Tweedle-Dumb and a Tweedle-Dumber in major-league baseball have been put out of our misery, in favor of interims Jerry Dipoto and Kirk Gibson as GM and manager (In late September, Kevin Towers was named general manager). The dual firing is the second-best thing that's happened to the Arizona Diamondbacks since they improbably won the World Series against the New… More >>
  • Best All-Around Diamondbacks Player

    Catcher Miguel Montero

    He doesn't have the star power of Justin Upton, but Miguel Montero is the best all-around player on the Diamondbacks' roster. First of all, the catcher position is the toughest in baseball. Imagine squatting for your entire career. Most catchers' knees go to hell eventually. Indeed, Montero had a right-knee sprain in April that kept him out of the lineup… More >>
  • Best Disappearing Act in Valley Sports

    Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb

    It's a distant memory, but Brandon Webb won the National League Cy Young Award in 2006. The ace of the Arizona pitching staff couldn't have saved the Diamondbacks from this season's bullpen woes (except by pitching an occasional complete game, maybe), but Webb in his prime would've made things a little rosy. Well, less thorny, anyhow. Webb was sidelined with… More >>
  • Best Sports Babe

    Danica Patrick

    Certainly, Scottsdale's Danica Patrick, the only woman seriously competing in professional motor sports these days, is the best-looking human in racing. (Ever get a look at Dale Earnhardt Jr.?) We'd only seen her beautiful head emerging from those emblem-cluttered racing coveralls until we spotted her at a Diamondbacks game, and we've got to tell you, she's all-over hot. (Down, boys!… More >>
  • Best Classy Player in Professional Sports

    Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash

    This superhero exudes class. He's a fierce competitor who leaves it all on the court and, somehow, makes no enemies in the process. In interview after interview, his competitors talk as if he's Mahatma Gandhi in sneakers. His charity work is legendary, both locally and nationally. One minute he's hanging out with cancer kids, the next he's rebuilding homes in… More >>
  • Best Hope for the Suns to Go Far in the Playoffs

    Center Robin Lopez

    In an age when few true centers are left in the game, the perennially small-ball Phoenix Suns finally have one in Robin Lopez. Based on a stellar second-half-of-his-second-year performance for the Suns, we're hoping the 7-foot Lopez puts on the cape and achieves full superhero status this season (forget about Dwight Howard). Lopez filled the gigantic shoes of Shaquille O'Neal… More >>
  • Best Professional Sports Executive

    Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver

    Why? Because he's the smartest. He wouldn't give Amar'e Stoudemire the huge contract he demanded. Everybody likes to rag on Robert Sarver because he let a superstar go, but he made a sound business — as well as sports — decision. Though Amar'e was capable of 40-point, 20-rebound nights, he rarely produced on the rebounding side of the equation. Plus,… More >>
  • Best New Addition to the Suns

    Forward Hedo Turkoglu

    The first time we watched Hedo Turkoglu, he was giving the Los Angeles Lakers hell in the playoffs as a Sacramento King. These were in the post-Charles Barkley, pre-Steve Nash days, when the Lakers were the closest "professional" basketball team we had nearby. He was playing behind fellow Eastern European Peja Stojakovic at the time, but you could tell that… More >>
  • Best Professional Coach

    Alvin Gentry

    If anybody doubted that Alvin Gentry was a superhero NBA coach, last year proved them wrong. Gentry managed to do something that no other Suns coach ever had been able to do in the team's run-and-gun-era — get his team to play solid defense. He even had defense-challenged (and now-departed) Amar'e Stoudemire doing it once in a while. Gentry also,… More >>
  • Best Turnaround Story

    Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic

    Two seasons ago, Goran Dragic, who had been a star in Europe, was the butt of jokes in this town. He was also getting his butt kicked by former Suns Coach Terry Porter for sloppy, tentative play during the rare times he appeared in games. It seemed as though drafting the young Slovenian to be a solid backup to Steve… More >>
  • Best Scrappers

    Phoenix Suns reserves Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson

    Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson gave the Phoenix Suns, always considered soft in the NBA, some much-needed muscle last season. These guys were about taking it to opponents on defense. They did stuff that was mind-blowing — hassling the hell out of offensive players, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and in Dudley's case, scoring baskets at crucial times. A deadly three-point… More >>
  • Best Wide Receiver in the NFL

    Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald

    Because of his size, hands, speed, and leaping ability, Larry Fitzgerald is the best wide receiver in pro football today, and he could, before it's over for him, be the best in history. Of all the athletes in town, he's Superman at what he does. An exaggeration? He's got the records to prove it. Take a look at the Cardinals'… More >>
  • Best Offensive Reason to Believe the Cardinals Will Go Far in the Playoffs

    Running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower

    Though the Arizona Cardinals' running game improved vastly last season — from terrible to all right — we predict it will become respectable in this year's regular season. Maybe even good. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, the team's first-round pick, was beset with rookie-itis in 2009-10: He had to get used to bigger, tougher defenders; hard-ass pro coaches; the NFL's… More >>
  • Best Next Michael Carbajal

    Jose Benavidez Jr., Phoenix junior-welterweight

    We have both fond and melancholic memories of Phoenix's all-time greatest boxer, Hall of Famer Michael Carbajal, who reached the top of his brutal sport only to be ripped off blind by his trainer and oldest brother, Danny. No one in town has come close to replicating Michael's fame and skill level, but teenager Jose Benavidez Jr., from the Central… More >>
  • Best Defensive Reason to Believe the Cardinals Will Go Far in the Playoffs

    Tackle Darnell Docket

    Darnell Docket is a wild-haired, supremely tattooed mammoth who's an NFL quarterback's worst nightmare. He's the Cardinals' best defensive player, and a premier defensive lineman in the league. Without this defensive anchor, we shudder to think how porous the team's D might become. Last season, he had seven QB sacks, leading all NFL defensive tackles and earning him his second… More >>
  • Best Tattooed Athlete

    Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson

    Jason Richardson is one hell of a basketball player, but he's an even better tattoo canvas. Dude has 26 tats on his cut physique, more than any other Suns player and rivaling that of all but a few players in the league. Before he came to Phoenix, Richardson played for the Charlotte Bobcats and the Golden State, and his largest… More >>
  • Best Old Guy

    Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill

    Grant Hill is a specimen. But here's how he became one. He's been in the NBA since 1994, and he hasn't played that much. As they say, he's got young legs — until he got to the Suns. He spent six years with the Detroit Pistons and seven with the Orlando Magic before getting here, and he was injured a… More >>
  • Best Play-by-Play Broadcaster

    Phoenix Suns' Gary Bender

    Gary Bender is simply the gold standard of sports broadcasting in Phoenix. You're in good hands with him. He's traditionally upbeat (after all, sports is entertainment), but he isn't afraid to call out players and coaches when they've messed up. You may be saying that giving Bender, 69, the nod ain't saying much, considering the competition of play-by-play guys like… More >>
  • Best Pompous Color Commentator

    Phoenix Suns' Eddie Johnson

    Eddie Johnson drives us nuts. He spends way too much time bragging about his exploits in the NBA, where he played for a bevy of teams, including the Suns, the Houston Rockets, and the Kansas City-turned-Sacramento Kings. He was what commentators like himself nowadays call "well-traveled." Not that Johnson was any slouch in his prime. Though he never made an… More >>
  • Best Championship Franchise

    Phoenix Mercury

    When it comes to pro sports in this town, these gals wear the capes. First of all, the best woman's basketball player in the game today, Diana Taurasi, plays for the Phoenix Mercury. Among her many accolades, Taurasi's a three-time WNBA All-Star, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, 2004 WNBA Rookie of the Year, her league's scoring leader in both average… More >>
  • Best Failure

    ASU Football's Dennis Erickson

    What's the point of Dennis Erickson? When he was hired to replace embattled coach Dirk Koetter back in 2007, eyebrows raised. But not nearly enough among alumni hungry for a head coach who could bring Arizona State University the consistent gridiron glory it longed for. As we pointed out in a cover story back then, the veteran coach brought baggage,… More >>
  • Best Retirement

    Former Cardinals QB Kurt Warner

    No one, and we mean no one, invigorated the long-moribund professional football franchise known as the Arizona Cardinals more than Kurt Warner, a future Hall of Fame quarterback with a penchant for connecting on long bombs and suffering too many concussions in the process. We watched as Warner, seemingly on his way out of the league a few years ago… More >>
  • Best Place to Improve Your Daredevil Skills

    USA Martial Arts

    Thanks to Hit Girl, the pint-size heroine of Kick-Ass, we've figured out that anyone can be a superhero given the right training. Founded by sixth-degree Black Belt and former Army Special Forces operative John Nottingham, USA Martial Arts doesn't wimp out by teaching just karate or aikido. The school's intense program combines tae kwon do, Filipino stick fighting, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing,… More >>
  • Best Way to Get Your Wonder Woman On

    Fighter Combat International

    Remember that old chestnut about how "if man were meant to fly, he'd be born with wings"? Try telling that to the human psyche, which seems to subconsciously craves to defy Isaac Newton's theory and break the surly bonds of gravity (as evidenced by all those freaky-deaky flying dreams you had as kid). Since commercial air travel is hardly fun… More >>
  • Best Place to Fly Like a Superhero

    Trapeze U

    Every kid wants to join the circus, whether he dreams of taming lions or flying on the trapeze. Unfortunately, most kids, like us, never had the balls or the skills to run off with Barnum & Bailey. But those childhood dreams aren't lost at Trapeze U, where performer and "adventure enthusiast" Dylan Phillips will literally teach you how to fly.… More >>
  • Luis Gonzalez

    Hero Worship

    Luis Gonzalez

    See: a video interview with Luis Gonzalez. Sports superstars in Phoenix have a nasty habit of choking in big-game opportunities. Not so with Luis Gonzalez. With one extraordinarily timed swing of his baseball bat during the 2001 World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks slugger reinforced his hero status to thousands of locals — myself included — by doing what Charles Barkley or Kurt… More >>