Kevin Johnson is a hero.
To the city of Sacramento and any fans of the Sacramento Kings the Maloof family hasn't driven away, he's a hero.
Per the Associated Press (via Usa Today), Sacramento is now in a stronger position to prevent the Kings from moving to Seattle:
Late Tuesday the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve a deal that contributes $258 million to the $447 million project. The city plans to use money earned from leasing parking garages for events at the arena to help pay the public cost of the new arena on the current site of an aging shopping mall.
The other $189 million will come from the California investment group seeking to have the NBA negate a pending sale that would move the team and restore the SuperSonics name.
Johnson, in his second term as the mayor of Sacramento, has been instrumental in putting the city in the position it is now.
Since it became universal knowledge that a new ownership group and arena deal in Seattle is ready to welcome the Kings with open arms, Sacramento has been on a clock. As a former NBA player and three-time All-Star, Johnson knows the importance of crunch time.
And so, according to Ron Burkle of the Associated Press, he has worked tirelessly to give his city a fighting chance:
Since then, the mayor, himself a former NBA All-Star, has scrambled to assemble a group to buy the team, convince Commissioner David Stern to consider a counter offer, and get approval for the financial deal that would build a $448 million arena on the site of a shopping mall — a development many say will revitalize a problem area in its bustling city core.
Next week, Johnson will present the arena plan and purchase offer to an NBA committee. The following week, the NBA Board of Governors will vote on whether the team can be sold, and whether it will stay or move.
Win or lose that vote, it's impossible to overlook all that Johnson has done.
The Kings appeared as good as sold roughly two months ago, and now Sactown is in a position to keep its team.
Or are the Kings already destined to remain where they are?
If we're to believe some of the reports, Sacramento is actually the favorite to retain the Kings (via Aaron Bruski of NBC's ProBasketballTalk):
That's an inordinate amount of progress for a city that was supposed to lose its lone major sports team. A complete 180-degree turn from what we were hearing in January.
At the forefront of this war has been Johnson.
We can't give him all the credit, obviously. The city itself has shown up and stood united throughout this ordeal. Without Johnson, though, Sacramento isn't where it is today. And the Kings would be well on their way to somewhere else, most likely Seattle.
Instead, there's new-found optimism abound.
Johnson was the first to thank the city of Sacramento after the latest vote and is now prepared to take his case before the NBA's Board of Governors.
With this latest victory, however small or demonstrative it proves to be, we learned something about Sacramento, about Johnson. The man we once saw help lead the Phoenix Suns to 10 consecutive playoff berths is now winning an entirely different battle.
"We want the folks of Seattle to get a team, we wish them well, but we want to keep what's ours," Johnson said (via Burkle).
Sacramento was supposed to be without hope, and inevitably, without an NBA team. Now, the city is on pace to secure a comeback victory, orchestrated by Johnson himself.
Just like we saw him do in the NBA for the better part of 12 years.
Now that's "playing to win."