Best Sports Legend 2014 | Basketball player, coach, and broadcaster Doug Collins | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

Doug Collins is the most astute NBA analyst around, after an illustrious college and professional playing career. Notice we didn't say head-coaching, another of his careers. He's been well-traveled there, having been forced out by the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards. He resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers last year after a dismal 34-48 season. Now, he's back broadcasting as an analyst for ESPN on its NBA Countdown show. Though it's arguable that Collins' expertise didn't translate to NBA coaching, he speaks with great authority on TV, standing out from the many boobs he's appeared with on various networks. Collins began his pro playing career with a bang: He was drafted first in the 1973 NBA draft out of Illinois State. He went on to star alongside Julius "Dr. J" Erving for the Philadelphia '76ers and be chosen for four late-1970s Eastern Conference All-Star teams. But in his team's only trip to the NBA Finals, the Sixers lost to Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers. Injuries forced Collins to retire as a player following the '80-'81 season. He first arrived in the Valley of the Sun when he followed University of Pennsylvania Coach Bob Weinhauer to Arizona State University. Later, his pro-coaching debut was with the Bulls, when Michael Jordan was blossoming. Despite taking the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in '88 and '89, Collins was fired when the Bulls lost both times to the Detroit Pistons (he was replaced by the legendary Phil Jackson). If you ask us, Collins never got dealt a good coaching hand after Chicago. None of his subsequent teams showd much playoff championship potential. Coaching's loss is fandom's gain; his soft-spoken and reasoned approach is a pleasure to behold.

The McDowell Mountains have been discovered, much to the dismay of longtime Valley climbers. We can't complain — we love the trails built over the past few years in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Now, everyone can enjoy this rugged, beautiful wilderness. And in what seems like a miracle, the city preserved access to several top-quality climbing areas, including Gardener's Wall. The wall is a like a giant hand of granite stuck in the earth, about 150 feet at its highest point. Mesquite, brush, and a rock obstacle course make the base a hideaway, which you'll rise far above as you tackle classic local routes like Hanging Gardens and Renaissance Direct. The rock quality here is mostly good — that is, it usually doesn't crumble in your hands. All the best routes should be well-cleaned. In spite of encroaching housing developments and the opening of more McDowell trails, Gardener's Wall is still the paradise you remember — 99 percent sweetness and fun and 1 percent sheer terror.

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