The Cardinals own the NFL’s best record at 9-2 heading into their Week 13 matchup with the Chicago Bears on Sunday, December 5, at Soldier Field.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are off to an NBA-best 19-3 start — including a franchise-record 18-game winning streak.
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The Cardinals social media team welcomed the Suns to the first-place club by giving the pointing Spider-Man meme a Valley of the Sun makeover:
Kennard understands the magnitude of the two teams’ strong starts better than most. Now in his second season with the Cardinals, Kennard is an Arizona native who played at Phoenix’s Desert Vista High School.
His father, Derek Kennard Sr., was an offensive lineman for the Cardinals from 1986-90 and a member of the team when it moved from St. Louis to Phoenix in 1988. With nine wins so far this season, the Cardinals are guaranteed a winning record for just the seventh time in 34 years since moving to Arizona.
“I’m from here,” Kennard told reporters Thursday, December 2, “so for me this is awesome. To be able to be playing for my home team and us having the success we’re having, and then turn on the Suns/Warriors game and they’re getting a win against Steph (Curry) and those boys, it’s an exciting time for people who are from here.”
It’s also been fun for longtime Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who stepped away from football following the 2020 season and these days can be found courtside at Suns games as a minority owner of the team.
“There’s something in the water,” Fitzgerald said of the Cardinals’ and Suns’ success this season. “Hopefully both organizations can keep on winning and bring some respect to the Valley.”
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From Star Player to Part Owner
Fitzgerald was courtside at Footprint Center as the Suns set a franchise record for consecutive wins in a season with a 114-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, December 2.
Earlier in the week, he talked about the Suns’ hot start and his role as a minority owner on his SiriusXM radio show, “Let’s Go.”
“Chris Paul has just been playing at an unbelievable clip, getting everybody involved,” Fitzgerald said. “Deandre Ayton, obviously Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges have been playing lights out. And we have one of the deepest benches in all of the National Basketball Association. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”
Being a minority owner with the Suns allows the surefire Hall of Fame receiver to stay involved in professional sports now that his playing days appear to be over. While Fitzgerald, 38, has not officially retired, he also has not given any indication he plans to return to the football field.
And he’s having fun being part of the Suns organization.
“I’m not a part of the game, but you get a chance to be in the meetings and just get to know the players, be able to enjoy the action and experience it with your kids,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Making the transition from star player to part owner also has its challenges.
“It’s more nerve-wracking actually because you have zero control of what’s happening on the athletic playing field or court,” he said. “You don’t have a ball in your hands. You can’t do anything but sit there and observe.”
Fitzgerald had the ball in his hands a lot during his 17-year NFL career. The No. 3 overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft ranks second all-time in receptions (1,378) and receiving yards (17,083) behind Jerry Rice. He also has the sixth-most touchdown catches (120) in NFL history.
Former Suns Star Calls Streak ‘Incredibly Impressive’
Fitzgerald was in his third NFL season and had not yet become Arizona’s most popular pro athlete when the Suns set a franchise record with 17-consecutive wins from December 29, 2006, to January 28, 2007.
That distinction belonged to Suns point guard Steve Nash, who had been named the league’s MVP the previous two seasons.
Nash, now in his second season as head coach of the New Jersey Nets, called the Suns’ winning streak this season “incredibly impressive.”
“It’s almost of no surprise, considering their [8-0] performance in the bubble and then last season getting to the Finals,” he told reporters prior to the Suns’ 113-107 road win over the Nets on Saturday, November 27.
“They’ve got good players, they’ve got lots of options, and they’re good on both sides of the ball. There’s clarity and an identity with their team. [Coach Monty Williams] has done a great job, and the players, I think, are enjoying that identity and purpose with the way they play,” Nash said.
Booker, the Suns’ leading scorer at 23.2 points per game this season, missed the record-setting win over the Pistons after injuring his left hamstring in Phoenix’s 104-96 victory over Golden State on Tuesday, November 30. He’ll also miss Round 2 vs. the Warriors (18-3) when the two teams meet again Friday, December 3.
After the game, he tweeted about the Suns’ 16-0 record in November: