Tomorrow night the Sacramento Kings will honor Chris Webber by retiring his Jersey in an elaborate halftime ceremony.
This event will be bittersweet in many ways.
Let’s start with the positives about one Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III.
Webber was a five-time All-Star, one-time All-NBA First Teamer, a Rookie of the Year and the first overall draft choice in the 1993 draft (by Orlando and traded to Golden State for Penny Hardaway). At the time, he was the first sophomore drafted first overall since Magic Johnson.
Webber averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds en route to winning the rookie of the year award. Webber’s relationship with then coach Don Nelson would soon deteriorate, leading the Warriors to trade him to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round draft choices just one season later.
Webber spent three years in Washington playing alongside former college teammate and friend Juwan Howard. In 1997 he earned his first All-Star appearance.
In May of 1998 Webber was traded to the laughing stock of the league—the Sacramento Kings. Webber at first refused to report to the Kings, not wanting to play for a losing team. How little Webber could have known that things in Sacramento were about to change.
That summer the Kings acquired small forward Peja Stojakovic, center Vlade Divac and point guard Jason Williams.
That season Webber won his first and only rebounding title. The Kings made a surprising playoff run, eventually losing to John Stockton and the Utah Jazz.
Over the next three years, the Kings became one of the most exiting teams in sports. The starting five was even featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words, “the greatest show on court.”
The Kings had become contenders. In the 2001-02 season the Kings were considered by many to be the best team in the league. They came up just short against the Lakers in the conference finals that year, losing to a combination of bad officiating and bad free-throw shooting.
During the '03 playoffs Webber sustained a career threatening knee injury. This injury derailed the Kings that season and in the following season, which Webber missed most of.
Webber eventually returned to the team after microfracture surgery on his knee, but he was never the same.
In February of '05 Webber was traded to the 76ers. That same season also saw the departure of Vlade Divac and Doug Christie, effectively ending the Kings’ run as contenders.
Webber would play for the 76ers, Pistons and Warriors before finally retiring, having never fully recovered from his knee injury.
Webber had helped put the Kings on the map. He had rallied a town around the team. He had made the Kings relevant. He had made a lot of money.
On the court, Webber was arguably the most important player in the history of the Kings. He will go down as, arguably, one of the ten best to ever play his position.
On the court is one thing, but off the court...that is another story entirely.