Best Sports Executive 2008 | USA Basketball's Jerry Colangelo | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix

We've had our differences with Jerry Colangelo over the years. There were times when we felt the Valley public sector was bending over frontward to financially enable this sports entrepreneur/developer. But, Jerry, we've forgiven you, because you are indeed a pillar of not only our sports community but the world's. You proved your prowess as a sports executive beyond compare with your takeover of troubled USA Basketball. That the team returned to Gold Medal form says it all. In summer Olympics past, we've wondered why multimillionaire NBA players couldn't win the gold against less-accomplished international teams, and now you've proved that they can. Money players prevail, as the Good Lord intended! We guess it just took the right man at the top to make this happen again.

Your great moments in Phoenix sports are legendary. As the original general manager and, later, head honcho of the Phoenix Suns, you may not have won a championship, but you came close a couple of times. Without you, there would be no U.S. Airways Center. But your greatest accomplishment was bringing major-league baseball to us — and three years later, fielding a World Series champion Diamondbacks team in 2001. Beating the New York Yankees in the aftermath of September 11 was something special. Much of the nation was (finger down throat) praying for the Bronx Bombers to prevail as a "healing" measure for America, but the team you assembled (with pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in their primes) made sure that didn't happen. Boo-hoo for the red, white, and blue. We say bravo for sticking it to the rest of America in '01, and then helping the U.S. stick it to the rest of the world in '08.

How many times did we see Boris Diaw drive to the goal and then, inexplicably, pass the ball back out? Way back out? How many times did we see him wide open for a lay-up yet nervously not take the shot, instead choosing to pass to an incredulous teammate. (That is, the teammate couldn't believe his eyes when Boris refused an easy basket, the result being a bobbled ball and a turnover.) Diaw may be getting paid mega-bucks, on the heels of his most-improved NBA player trophy for the 2005-06 season, but he's too shy to be a major NBA player.

We're saying, how many times must he fail to impress before the Suns trade him to somebody who wants him — say, Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks? D'Antoni, who failed to win a championship with his system, owes us that much. We're not one to lash out at the French, but Diaw's the kind of player who makes you wonder whether the whole country's made up of a bunch of sissies. Hey, it's not that he hasn't played well on occasion. The guy's had three triple-doubles. Last year, in game four of the first round of the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs, Diaw almost achieved another one (20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) in 44 minutes.

Why he hasn't turned in performances like this regularly is a mystery; he's avoided serious injury. We think he lacks heart, intensity, confidence. He surprises even himself when he plays well and hasn't the swagger to carry the success into the next game. The idea that the best man to fellow basketball Frenchie Tony Parker (Mr. Eva Longoria) could play point forward regularly and allow Steve Nash major breathers is just crazy. How many turnovers can the team stand? How many missed opportunities for easy buckets? Please, Suns, put Boris out of our misery.

For Alvin Adams' sake, he's 7 feet tall and he's a defensive specialist! Could this 255-pound bruiser out of Stanford University actually be playing for the Suns? Well, you freakin' betcha! General manager Steve Kerr went out and got the team a big man, to spell not just the aged Shaquille O'Neal but Amaré Stoudemire, as well. His being a primo defender in the paint in college should be a big plus. Maybe he can teach Stoudemire how to do it, and maybe Amaré can teach Lopez how to pick up his scoring. The guy's a monster on the court who blocked 73 shots during his freshman season. That was not only the most shots blocked in the Pac-10 Conference that year, but it was a school record at Stanford (which has sported some incredible basketball teams).

Lopez is young (20), having entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season, but he will add muscle to the Suns' D. Not that we give a crap about his twin brother, Brook (drafted by the New Jersey Nets), but the Lopezes together blocked more shots than seven Pac-10 teams in the 2006-07 season. And don't think Lopez can't score. Though his brother was the more offensive player in college, Robin turned in two double-doubles in his sophomore season and has scored in double figures in NBA summer league competition. But the most interesting thing about him is his red Afro. (That and the rumor that he dated pro golfer babe Michelle Wie.)

If we'd given a Best Of for incredible hair (past winners include Eric Byrnes and Steve Nash) this year, he'd have won it, tresses down. To say he hears the beat of a different backboard-pounder would be an understatement. The round-ball giant, along with his brother, is queer for Greek mythology, Michael Jackson music, and anything Disney. The only other way he's light in the sneakers is as a rebounder (he averaged six boards a game in college, and the Suns are expecting more out of him in the, by comparison, wide-open pro game).

As the Springsteen lyric goes, "Man turns his back on his family, well, he just ain't no good." Which some in his family say describes legendary former Phoenix boxing manager Danny Carbajal. The confidant and trainer of brother Michael Carbajal, the world champion Phoenix flyweight and silver medalist in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Danny was sentenced in February to almost five years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement accounts and properties from his late ex-wife, Sally. He is also under investigation by Phoenix police in the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, for embezzling more than $1 million from his mother, and for steering his trusting brother Michael, whose financial affairs Danny handled as his manager, into financial ruin.

"I have no assets," Michael, long retired from the ring, said at Danny's sentencing. "He left me broke, with nothing, Judge!" It was not always so between the brothers; Danny trained Michael from a kid to the boxing success he enjoyed, which involved winning more than $7 million in purses over his career. The two were best friends; at least, Michael thought so. These days Michael, who in February asked that Danny get a maximum 10-year sentence, is dependent on his girlfriend to survive. "I would have given him anything. Anything!" Michael, now 41, said to the judge. But that was then.

If you've been to an Arizona Roller Derby or Arizona Derby Dames match, you've seen Joker. Or heard her. She's the chick with the glasses and curly Mohawk who positions herself behind a team bench or right out on the rink, screaming her head off. Sometimes, she's dressed in the colors of a particular team (with face paint to match), and other times, she's just wearing buttons or T-shirts that proclaim her team spirit. But no matter how she's dressed, she always acts the same — she'll scream at refs for "bad calls," shout encouragement at players, and slam her fists against the rink floor or bench ledge. Since the local roller derby leagues were founded more than five years ago, Joker's rarely missed a match in either league, and she can recall incidents from games five years ago with all the clarity of a fan who's watched the same footage over and over. She's even made her way into video clips of the Arizona Derby Dames, by virtue of just always being around. And though roller derby has its share of devout fans here, none of them is as enthusiastic and downright lusty as Joker. For her, even seeing the Derby Dames selling brownies outside Bikini Lounge on First Friday qualifies as an event.

Now, we've got lots of sports legends living in the Valley: Muhammad Ali (he's still alive, isn't he?), probably the greatest athlete of all time; Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever; mouth-from-the-South Charles Barkley; Iron Mike Tyson. And quite a few sports legends have died here: George Mikan, the first legitimate NBA big man, and baseball's Kirby Puckett. But there's one who never lived here or died here, but whose body and head (separated for storage) are frozen here in the hopes that one day, when medical science has achieved a God-like proportion, the two can be rejoined and rejuvenated into a live and well Ted Williams.

Even dead, the great Boston Red Sox slugger is bigger than life. Nary a year goes by when a major publication or broadcast outlet doesn't marvel at how Ted's noggin wound up at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale in "cryonic suspension." One story is that Williams scribbled a note on a napkin that he wanted to be "put in biostasis" after death, another is that he stated in his will that he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered over a favorite fishing spot. There were legal rumblings among family members over what the baseball great really desired, but Williams and his head have been at Alcor since shortly after his death on July 5, 2002.

Now there's nobody in the Valley who's more legendary than Teddy Ballgame. He played 19 seasons with Boston and is considered by many the greatest all-around hitter in baseball history. He was Most Valuable Player in the American league twice, led the league in hitting six times, had a lifetime batting average of .344 and hit 521 home runs. He was the last major-leaguer to hit over .400 (.406, actually) in a single season (1941). He always went out with flash: on his final at-bat on September 28, 1960, he hit a home run. In addition to his baseball career, he was a distinguished Marine Corps pilot in World War II and the Korean War.

When Bob Costas once asked Williams whether he realized that he was a real-life John Wayne hero, Williams responded: "Yeah, I know." We sincerely hope that medical science is someday able to revive a hero of such egocentric proportions, that a youth serum has been invented to return Williams (who was 82 when he died) to his youthful form, and that he struts into left field for the Diamondbacks. Though he never won a World Series during his playing days, we're sure that (even coming back from the dead) he'd be come closer helping our boys in cleats do it than Eric Byrnes.

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