Best Male Athlete 2020 | Devin Booker | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Phoenix Suns fans suspected shooting guard Devin Booker might have some serious game when the team nabbed him with the 13th pick in the 2015 draft. But the 23-year-old from the University of Kentucky has become a megastar, leading one of the most exciting young franchises in the NBA. A lethal scorer who can drive or drain jumpers from anywhere on the court, Booker lately has been sinking dimes from the logo and netting buzzer-beating, game-winning daggers; he's arguably the MVP of the NBA bubble. Yes, Booker has a supermodel girlfriend in Kendall Jenner. But we're more impressed with what he's doing on the court.

Kobe Bryant (may he rest) nicknamed Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi "The White Mamba." Deandre Ayton called her the Michael Jordan of the WNBA, where she's the all-time leading scorer. Taurasi has four Olympic gold medals as a member of Team USA. She's a nine-time WNBA All-Star who led the Phoenix Mercury to three WNBA Championships (2007, 2009, and 2014) and took home the MVP Award in 2009. But all of the records, medals, and titles are just part of what makes Taurasi the G.O.A.T. — it's also her spirit, her grit, and her determination that encourages her teammates and makes everyone around her better. Look for her to possibly coach in Phoenix after spending her entire pro career here.

The merchandise for the Valley's United Soccer League team isn't fancy or expensive. The designs are all simple but effective variations and amalgamations of the Phoenix Rising logo, soccer balls, and the shape of the state of Arizona. Unlike a Phoenix Suns player jersey that will set you back about $110, Phoenix Rising jerseys have sponsor logos on the front that are larger than the team logos (this season, that sponsor is Carvana), but they cost less ($65 to $95) and are super comfortable — like all Phoenix Rising apparel. That's what makes this gear so great. Shirts are made from high-quality cotton, polyester, and rayon blends, and some of the T-shirts can be colorful and edgy compared to the rest (we love the sugar skull with soccer balls for eyes). But perhaps the best merch offerings are the Phoenix Rising socks — five kinds to choose from (designed by Rock 'Em Socks and For Bare Feet), all engineered to keep feet healthy while looking awesome.

There are plenty of reasons to love Practical Art, from its monthly exhibits featuring works by local artists to its charity pie nights benefiting various causes. Also: several of the artists who show or sell their work at Practical Art also offer classes in the creative space, giving people a chance to level up your skills while getting to know some of the best artists in our midst. Where else can you learn the techniques Denise Yaghmourian uses to paint her mischievous ceramic plates or the ways Ann Morton recycles objects to create whimsical bouquets of flowers? Small class sizes mean people get plenty of individual attention, and the casual setting keeps classes from feeling intimidating. It's also one of the most affordable places to take art classes, so you can make more stuff and drop less dough.

When we were kids, whose house did we want to play at? The kid who had all the games. A night at Snakes & Lattes in Tempe is a little like going over to that kid's house, except there are thousands of games and a full bar and you're a grown-up now. Next time you're in a nostalgic mood (or bored, or looking to switch things up), grab a friend or five and head down to Mill Avenue. Order a drink (alcoholic or non) and maybe something to nosh on (we love the elote bites), and then you're ready for the hard part: choosing a game. There are modern hits like Secret Hitler, Codenames, and Apples to Apples; classics like Sorry!, Connect Four, and Mall Madness (yes, really); strategy games like Risk, Sushi Go, and Ticket to Ride; and oh-so-many more. Most of them are just as much fun as you remember.

Now that science has debunked the myth that drinking alcohol kills brain cells, why not merge learning with libations? The ASU Biodesign Institute does just that with its "A Sip of Science" series, in which professors from the school give fascinating, informal presentations on scientific topics in various bars and restaurants, in combination with themed cocktails. Toast to topics like "How Will Polar Ice Melt Affect the Migration of Infectious Disease?," "Zombies Are Real: Are Microbes Controlling My Mind?," and "Mo' Plastics, Mo' Problems: The Life of Microplastic and Your Seafood" with specialty drinks at places like The Henry, Match Market + Bar, and Blanco Tacos & Tequila. The cost is $15 per event and includes light appetizers. Proceeds help fund community science events. Cheers.

We like yoga. We do yoga sometimes. But we don't drive down to the far, far southeast corner of the Valley to do yoga — we do that for the baby goats in costumes. Goat yoga has become quite the trend in the past few years, and for good reason: Who wouldn't enjoy a light workout while surrounded by cute animals? The two ladies behind Arizona Goat Yoga were in the vanguard of the craze, which means they've had plenty of time to refine the experience they offer. Depending on the week, you might get adult and baby goats dressed up as sharks, superhero cow-cuddling and goat yoga, or '80s-themed goat and alpaca yoga. The goats are friendly and not smelly, but be prepared: You will probably get jumped on during your table pose.

A few years back, we found an injured bird in the New Times atrium. We knew exactly what to do: We scooped him up into a box and drove him to Liberty Wildlife. This nonprofit organization cares for and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wild animals, teaches people of all ages about wildlife, and instills in the community a respect for the value and beauty of nature. In pre-pandemic times, this translated into camps for kids, nature walks, educational programs, tours, "Coffee With a Ranger" events, and more. Since the spring, we've had to get our cute animal fix by following Liberty on Instagram, but we're looking forward to the day we can again visit the south Phoenix facility and learn more about the precious desert wildlife that surrounds us.

Best Place to Hang With Creatures of the Night

Phoenix Bat Cave

Bats have never been a particularly popular member of the animal kingdom, and in the age of COVID, their approval rating has dropped dramatically. But bats are actually really cool, and helpful, and there's a place in Phoenix where you can watch them head out for their nightly feeding. The Phoenix Bat Cave is a flood-control tunnel off the canal path near Camelback Road and 40th Street. Each May through October, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats (estimates put the population of the colony somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000) leaves the cave around sunset in search of food. Stand quietly at the fence, and you'll see the bats emerge from the tunnel and fly off into the darkening skies. It's a tiny, magical moment that offers a closer brush with nature than we usually get in our concrete-covered metropolis. As you walk back to your vehicle along the canal, you'll get a second look at the bats; many of them hover near the water to snack on bugs.

If you've lived here longer than a minute, you're aware of Phoenix's awe-inspiring sunsets. They're a staple of social media posts, and well worth enduring the hassles of life in the Valley. Thanks to our wide-open vistas and huge stretches of sky, great views are available from almost anywhere. The grandest, though, can be found on South Mountain at Dobbins Lookout. Navigate the twists and turns of a 20-minute drive to the summit and take in a sweeping panorama of the entire Valley as the sun melts into the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink, orange, and violet. Climb onto the lookout platform and feel like the master of all you survey. Or just kick back on a bench or the hood of your car and watch the sunlight succumbing to nightfall as city lights twinkle below. The lookout is closed for updates, but it'll reopen this fall with a new ramada, a new walking path, ADA improvements, and refurbishment of the overlook structure, making one of our favorite places an even better spot to enjoy the view.

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