by Rudy Raya

We are gathered here today to not only say goodbye to a team, but to something more. It’s always hard to say goodbye to loved ones, but it’s even worse when the loss is unexpected. At the tender age of 26, the Sacramento Kings were taken away from our fair city.

There was a time when the once-happy marriage between the franchise and the city of Sacramento was truly a match made in heaven. With more love than could fit within the confines of the cramped ARCO Arena, the town embraced the team like that weird uncle who hugs you for 10 seconds too long. With so much behind us and so much more ahead of us, it is not without sorrow that we let go of our once proud franchise.

To say that the Kings will be missed is a huge understatement. In a town known for its grey skies, green rivers and one unsightly yellow and useless bridge, the Kings were really the only thing citizens could hang their hats on. A struggling franchise to say the least, but when things were good, they were really good. There was a time when the Kings were more than just our team; they were our identity. They embodied our personality. They were a direct reflection of the people who live here. Other than their height, that ragtag collection of players that took the court in the early part of the ‘00s was no different than the people who were in the stands.

With the likes of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac and the rest of crew, they were a team of NBA castoffs, left for dead with this forgotten franchise. Before those days, the Kings were anything but NBA royalty and instead maintained the position as perennial cellar-dwellers in the Western Conference. When you least expected it, things just started to click. The team nobody expected anything from began to turn heads. From the starting five to the boisterous bench, the Kings began to hit on all cylinders. Things felt different. The city was different. It felt alive. You’d go to sleep with a smile on your face and wake up with it in the morning. They put Sacramento on the map and gave us something we could actually be proud of.

We had our time at the top, but due to injuries, crooked referees and a lucky Lakers team, the Kings never reached the promise land. When Chris Webber left, a big part of the Kings felt lost as well. The 6-10, 250-pound heart of the Kings was no longer there. Slowly but surely every player from that magical team left town, as did much of the support. No wins meant no fans, and the only time people really packed the place was to see Kobe once or twice a year. The Ron Artest years were interesting to say the least, but the excitement wasn’t the same. It didn’t feel like a team, or at least not our team.

When Tyreke Evans fell to us the through good graces of the basketball gods, that feeling of excitement started to build back up. There was reason to watch games again as he was the first sign of hope in a number of years. Questions of the Kings’ possible movement were only in their infancy, but Tyreke looked to be the answer. His eye-catching display on the court was going to be enough to get us a new arena and begin a new era in Kings’ basketball. But it was too little, too late. The flailing Kings couldn’t even hold on to sponsors for their arena, as the formerly named ARCO Arena is now named after Power Balance bracelets that have been proven to do nothing — fitting for this failure of a team which has been lacking any sort of power or balance throughout the season.

There was a time when a ticket to a Kings’ game was almost impossible to get, but you can’t even give them away now. The unfortunate truth is that a majority of the citizens just don’t care about the team. They don’t remember what it was like to win — that feeling of utter joy and exuberance as you jump out of your seat and shout whatever animal-like sound you can muster up. Losing is like a disease that leaves you with no recognition or even concept of how it feels to win. This spreading sickness wiped out the Kings’ bandwagon quicker than a case of dysentery in a game “Oregon Trail.”

Those who are upset with the turn of events are simply looking for somebody to point a finger at, but in all actuality, everybody is to blame. The city, fans, front office and even players; each played a part in the franchise’s failure. Most of the blame seems to be falling on Mayor Kevin Johnson, but what it really came down to was that not a lot of people truly cared anymore.

ARCO Arena was old 10 years ago, and is now more than ever in need of a renovation or a replacement. Sadly, the Kings are no longer relevant in the public’s perspective. Sacramento is small enough as it is, but factor in a losing team and you have the turnout equivalent of a bad night of Monster Jam. The inadequately small ARCO Arena can barely even house monster truck shows since the only death-defying feats it can permit are three-point turns. In this economy, it’s a wonder how any small market team can afford to accommodate a major sports team both financially and spatially. As the Maloofs have said, this is a business, and you can’t blame them for looking out for the best interests of the team. It’s just disappointing that they couldn’t find that here in Sacramento.

We may snivel, sob and pout about this outcome, but if there is anything that DeMarcus Cousins has taught us it’s that crying gets you nowhere. The Kings are more than just a team. The franchise was a part of the community. For the last quarter of a century, we welcomed the Kings into our homes every night and, ultimately, into our hearts. While there may be a sort of disconnect between big cities and their teams, we had something special. There was a love there that many seem to have forgotten.

Whether it was reporting my first NBA game or just spending quality time with my dad, the Kings have played a huge part in my life through childhood, early adulthood and the beginning of my career in journalism. Though the Kings may be leaving, their place in my life has given me a wealth of memories that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is with this that I say goodbye to the Kings and wish them well in whatever endeavors they may undertake in their Anaheim-bound afterlife.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for all of your love and support. The ceremony was beautiful and only thing missing was Craig Sager in a repulsively purple two-piece suit. He has fashion sense of a broke, blind pimp, but that’s just what we love about him.

Please feel free to sign the guestbook below.