With Teams Full of Uncertainty, Loyalty is Key

Sports in Arizona is a unique market. In a state that prides itself as a place to retire and remain active, we get many residents from all over the country. When this happens, they bring their “fanhood” with them. We can’t fault them for it. I would only hope that if Cardinals/Suns/Diamondbacks/Coyotes fans move to another state, they would still root for their home teams. We can, however, certainly fault ourselves for selling our tickets to opposing fans, but that’s a topic for a different day. You would generally expect that the Arizona sports market is lacking when it comes to player loyalty. “Why would anyone want to stay in Arizona when the large markets get to have all the fun and glory?” Historically, Arizona athletes have actually been notably loyal.

Currently, we have players like Larry Fitzgerald, Paul Goldschmidt, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and recently extended Devin Booker. Not enough for you? Let’s go back a generation (or two). Here are some notables:

Cardinals:

Diamondbacks:

  • Adrian Wilson 12 Years
  • Darnell Dockett 10 Years
  • Aeneas Williams 10 Years
  • Scott Player 9 Years
  • Luis Sharpe 13 Years (6 with STL Cardinals)
  • Miguel Montero 9 Years
  • Luis Gonzalez 8 Years
  • Randy Johnson 8 Years
  • Stephen Drew 7 Years
  • A.J. Pollock 7 Years

Suns:

Coyotes:

  • Al McCoy 46 YEARS (Yes, he counts)
  • Alvan Adams 13 years
  • Kevin Johnson 12 years
  • Walter Davis 11 years
  • Steve Nash 10 years
  • Shane Doan 20 Years (1 with Winnipeg Jets)
  • Teppo Numminen 15 Years (8 with Winnipeg Jets)
  • Keith Tkachuk 10 Years (5 with Winnipeg Jets)
  • Keith Yandle 9 Years
  • Mike Smith 6 Years

Arizona has actually had a fair amount of player loyalty within franchises. Even longer if you include when the teams did not reside in Arizona. Now let’s dive deeper into some current players who are the longest tenured and those who have shown their loyalty to their franchise.

Larry Fitzgerald – 15 years

There’s no doubt that when football fans think of the Arizona Cardinals, there is one name that is understood. Larry Fitzgerald. Larry Legend is pushing for his 15th season, a feat that is rarely accomplished in such a violent sport. More importantly, Larry has always kept his loyalty during some of the hardest seasons that Cardinals fans can only hope to forget. Many would agree that the Cardinals would be nowhere close to their success in the Whisenhunt & Arians eras if it weren’t for Larry Fitzgerald. Easily in the top-3 best receiver of all-time debate, he has stayed with 1 team his whole career. Not a statistic that players like Jerry Rice & Randy Moss can claim. Furthermore, Larry Legend intends to be a Cardinal for life.

Paul Goldschmidt – 8 years

Taking a page out of Larry Fitzgerald’s playbook, Paul Goldschmidt has been the quintessential pro. Grossly underpaid during his best years, Paul focused on being a 6-time All-star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, and 3-time Silver Slugger. Constantly in the MVP debate, Goldschmidt is up for a new contract in 2020. The Diamondbacks would be remiss to not sign Goldschmidt to an extension before his contract is up.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 8 years

The Arizona Coyotes were blessed to have Shane Doan for an unheard of 20-year span. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is looking to come close to that number after signing an 8-year extension to an already 8-year career with the Coyotes. The 2-time All-star raised plenty of eyebrows in the valley when he signed his extension since contracts are normally half the duration on average. This shows his dedication to the organization and to the valley, bringing stability to a team full of uncertainty.

Devin Booker – 3 years

Yes, Devin Booker has only been a Phoenix Sun for 3 years. He makes this list because of his decision to sign a 5-year, $158 million contract extension. If he decides to stay with Phoenix for another contract, he will surely put himself in the top-5 of longest-tenured Suns players in franchise history. Booker has the makings to be a Larry Fitzgerald/Paul Goldschmidt type player. One that sticks to letting their agent do the work and focusing on getting better at his craft. Devin is also very active in the community (as are the other 3 on this list) and can become one of the greatest players in team history. There is certainly a lot on his shoulders, and it seems that he is welcoming the challenge.

So fans, just when you think the large market teams are ruining sports (I’m looking at you LA), remember that these men are committed to their teams for the long haul.

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