Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 4:14 pm  |  23 responses

Goodbye, Kings

A Sacramento writer eulogizes the departing franchise.

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.

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  • http://www.anaheimroyalty.com/ Anaheim Royalty

    Farewell Kings. Hello Royals.

  • http://crownedhoops.blogspot.com Rob

    Good write-up. Really puts the Kings’ time here in perspective.

  • http://www.eboy.com doyouwantmore

    Great article. So pi$$ed off that this is happening after waiting for years to see redemption. F##% the cheating Lakers and F%$# Tim Donaghy.

  • kansas city

    Lets all remember that the Kings came from KC and played next to the….. KC Royals

  • Steve

    I was with you up until you said those who are upset are just looking to point a finger and that fans are partly responsible.
    I think I speak for many when I say fans are not looking to point fingers. We know it’s a business and everything revolves around the dollar, in this case, millions of dollars. I cannot blame the Maloofs for choosing to move after waiting for previous city leaders to do something to help get a new building built. There is blood on the hands of city leaders, the Maloofs, the NBA, and the commish. This goes back to the propsed land swap deal the league supported. That thing had no chance in hell of happening.
    As for fans being at fault at all for the team choosing to move: how does that work? Fans have supported this team from day one and finally got rewarded in 1999 when the right pieces fell into place for a title run in 2002. As that team aged and fell apart fans continued to pack Arco until the Maloofs went cheap. They unloaded salary in exchange for poor talent and the team stunk. That combined with the economic crash hit the 916 hard and fans are no longer willing to pay to watch a bad team. Who can blame anyone for not wanting to watch a bad team when money is tight or disposable income no longer exists?
    Nice story, but please don’t ever blame the fans in Sacramento.

  • lakers#1

    Sorry about your loss but don’t worry, the departed may learn a thing or two now that they will be neighbors to the #1 team: Lakers. Yeah 3-peat once again!! but you don’t have to watch if you don’t want to. Enjoy life, enjoy the game!

  • bull22

    i hate to see this happening to the kings fans, moving to anaheim is a stupid move for this franchise. not a fan of team but cheered for you guys to win title in 2002, i still can’t believe as i was watching series, at the time i thought it was worst officiated games at least until the 2006 finals. that series took alot of integrity away from the game. its a shame we can’t go back in time and give you the championship your city deserved. much regards to sacramento fans for their loyalty.

  • Fish

    If anyone in Sac thinks that a move to Anaheim will make the Kings/Royals better, they are kidding themselves. No one except the Maloofs wants a 3rd team in SCal. Good luck.

  • http://yahoo.com rudy

    I’m not directly placing the blame on fans, but obviously attendance was one of the biggest determining factors in the decision to move. I’m not talking about die hard fans, I’m talking about the casual fan. The fan whose idea of supporting the team is “liking” them on Facebook. As supporters of a small-market team, the team is directly reliant upon us. Struggling franchises all over the world continue to fill up arenas, but it couldn’t happen here. Of course the economic recession played a part in it, but what place in the US hasn’t been affected by that? I believe that the city of Sacramento took them for granted and now the real fans are left with nothing.

  • Curtis Carroll

    Very well-written and thoughtful recap of your quarter-century life with the Kings. I am not a huge Kings fan, but understand the city is losing an important amenity and image statement. It really bothers me that cities like Memphis and Oklahoma City can support an NBA team and we can’t.

    What those two cities have and we lack is a true regional vision. If the city of Sacramento had a higher share of the overall metro population, it might have the leadership and influence to get a new stadium built. I am 59. If I were 29, I’d build my future in an emerging city. Not one splintered and fractured by petty power plays for tax revenue and government funding. The Kings move is not the Maloof’s fault. They’ve been good to Sacramento but can’t make it work here with the present facility. Although we’re a top 25 media market by population, our ad revenue potential is much smaller and therein lies the root of the problem. If we were really important, Arco would have renewed their naming rights.

  • NJ4Life

    As a Jersey-born Nets fan, I feel Sac-town’s pain. I hate that my team that I supported through a LOT of bad years and a few great ones (JKidd!) is being moved, but Brooklyn is way closer to Jersey than Anaheim is to Sacramento. It’s the worst feeling when you live and die with your team, and the higher ups can’t keep them around.

  • http://slamonline.com ghost

    Hearing the kings have to move is almost saddening and im a lakers fan. Back in the day i was hard core lakers fan i couldnt stand the kings hated them but know i see that all of that means nothing bc in the end its nothing more then a business, farewell kings thank you for the memories

  • Sam J

    Has any reason been given why they think Anaheim will be any better? Relocate if need be, but if they can’t pull crowds in a one pro-sports-team market, how they goign to do it as no. 3 in SoCal?

  • doyouwantmore

    Lakers#1: Thank you for illustrating so perfectly what it is about Lakers fans that make you suck.

  • http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com omphalos

    Man this sucks, Kings were finally getting somewhere with Reke, Thornton off the bench and Demarcus Cousins inside. If they could nab Harrison Barnes, Irving or Kanter they’d be sorted for the next decade pretty much. Sacramento deserved another crack. I hate all this moving franchises stuff.

  • Rafael

    Show support for YOUR KINGS to stay! Don’t give up!!!

  • majic

    Totally blowns, nothing worse then losing your home town team. Especially when its a situation like ours. What else does Sacto have? The Kings were our identity, our passion

  • RunNGun

    This really sucks for Kings fans. It feels like the whole Sonics situation all over again. This is a big mistake by the Maloofs, but oh well… there’s a thing called karma and we know how that works.

  • dsleepy

    Amazing. Great write-up. It made me think of what I would go through if I lost my own hometown team and I shed a tear for you and Sacto. Props to you for staying classy and ending the piece on a positive note. The Craig Sager line absolutely killed me.

  • Dillantradamus

    Why couldn’t the Kings have just moved back home to Kansas City! Not only would they be able to keep the Kings name, but also rejuvinate the basketball commmunity back in KC! It’s not like we’re unaccustom to rooting for teams with horrible records, we have the Royals!
    But who am I kidding, the sprint center is never going to get a NBA tenent. They’re better off looking for a IHL team at this rate.

  • jadamang

    Moving the King$ to anahiem is a very bad move it’s like giving Dfw two more football teams,really moving the Clips to another city like san diego or st.louis and then moving the kings to kentucky or las vegas would make more sense…..im not mad at the King$ for moving but not to Anahiem it’s just doesnt make nba territory sense…..

  • patrick

    They haven’t decided to move yet so the author of this article is a dumbass.

  • http://yahoo.com rudy

    hahahahaha my favorite comment of them all