Sacramento Kings to Seattle: A Bitter Love Story from a Jilted Sacramentan

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Sacramento Kings to Seattle: A Bitter Love Story from a Jilted Sacramentan

On Wednesday morning, the worst-kept secret but most inevitable truth sent shock waves throughout California’s Central Valley: News broke that the much-maligned Sacramento Kings were likely ditching town for Seattle.

So the details haven’t been hashed out in full (yet), but ever since Kings owners George and Gavin Maloof tried to move the team to Anaheim in 2011, backed out of a deal to build a new arena in Sacramento then apparently tried to move the struggling franchise to Virginia Beach, the proverbial writing has been on the walls of Whatever They Call it Arena in Sacramento.

That didn’t stop emotions ranging from shock to anger to despair from flooding California’s capital city.

Full disclosure: Yours truly grew up in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento. And while I still consider myself a fan of the Kings, my Kings- and NBA-related cynicism had run rampant in recent years. Much like when people like to poke fun at my hometown as a dump, I don’t always vehemently disagree right away, but it’s still my dump, dammit. And I still love it.

So when Twitter told me on Wednesday morning that the Kings were looking to leave, there wasn’t much shock value there. Maybe a chuckle, maybe some under-the-breath profanity, but more than anything else, I just continued on with my coffee.

The Kings were always going to leave Sacramento.

Those who felt that the Maloofs would pull through and pledge their allegiance to the city they so desperately have tried to leave were nothing but hopeless romantics clinging to the heels of an always-going-to-fail relationship.

Inevitability notwithstanding, it still hurts.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Let us think of a better time, a time when the Maloofs actually cared.

See, most non-Sacramentan Californians consider Sacramento to be somewhat of a laughingstock—or just a place that Bay Area types have to pass through on the way to Lake Tahoe.

But it’s the capital, you guys! (Even if Shaq doesn’t think so.)

But very few who haven't lived in Sacramento can fully grasp the connection that the city has—err, had—with the Kings. Sacramento is a one-team town. When the Kings finally do depart, Sacramento will become the nation’s only top-20 media market without a professional sports franchise.

The relationship between team and town is much like what I imagine it’s like to be a college football fan in the SEC.

Sure, interest had depleted over time in Sacramento, but much of that can be traced back to a mediocre on-court product put in front of a government city that has been ravaged financially by California’s well-documented fiscal problems.

When the Kings were relevant, the city stopped. Hell, even when the Kings were terrible, they were still relevant enough to set attendance records.

In 2002, when the Kings were on the cusp of knocking off the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the potentially series-clinching Game 6 (yes, that game) butted heads with my high school’s end-of-year dance. Solution? Bring a giant projector into our gymnasium and watch the thing on the big screen. OK, maybe it was a big slice of white butcher paper, but whatever.

So that wasn’t the liveliest dance at Casa Roble High School, but you get the point. Everyone wanted the Kings to win. Dancing could wait.

In Sacramento, Game 6 against the Lakers really was greatest tragedy in sports.

After the Kings lost the subsequent Game 7 in free-throw wrenching manner, I went outside to my parents’ driveway and our since-removed basketball hoop. There was a sudden outpouring of people walking dogs, walking kids, etc. With any passerby, eye contact was all you needed to tell exactly what the other was thinking.

It was an empty look. It was a that-really-sucked look, knowing they’d never get that close again.

So while the current crop of Kings is less likeable than the early-2000s teams and exponentially lacking in the talent department, it’s still our cruddy team.

Us Sacramento folk are easy to please and quick to forgive.

Sacramento’s not celebrity-laden Los Angeles. It’s not the beach-side utopia of San Diego. And it’s certainly not eccentric and scenic San Francisco.

Give Sacramento a basketball team, and it’ll support it to an almost unhealthy extent. Hell, our family named our small yet spry Schipperke puppy "Spud" after the similarly diminutive onetime Kings point guard, Spud Webb. 

That’s what really hurts, here. That Sacramento’s fans have been nothing but good to the team and the Maloofs through thick and thin, and now the city’s fiercely loyal fans are soon to be without a team. 


So what now, Sacramento? The total ramifications of the city’s loss, and its response, remain to be seen.


Whether it’s DeMarcus Cousins-like rage, Grant Napear-like disappointment or wherever in the emotional spectrum the Kings fan lands, one thing’s for certain:

We just want our team back.

 

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