Joe Maloof, Gavin Maloof, and the Rise and Fall of the Sacramento Kings

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Joe Maloof, Gavin Maloof, and the Rise and Fall of the Sacramento Kings
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In 1997, the Sacramento Kings were a perennial NBA laughingstock. Bad trades—and even worse draft selections—had left the small market team on the bottom of every significant NBA players' wish list. Their team jet was nicknamed "Airball 1" by players. Since 1987, they had posted a winning percentage under .350 a whopping six times, and hadn't broken .500 since arriving in Sacramento.

For years, big-time college prospects like Billy Owens, Bobby Hurley and Pervis Ellison were selected high in the lottery, only to show up in Sacramento either unwilling or unable to live up to their pedigrees. Mitch Richmond was the closest thing the Kings had to a star, but his supporting cast included players like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Olden Polynice—not exactly a latter day version of the 2011 Miami Heat. Or even the 2001 Miami Heat. Simply put, things were miserable for a basketball fan in California's capital. 

But in 1998, things began to look up. A young family of investors named the Maloofs purchased a minority stake in the Kings, and in 1998 they bought themselves majority control. Former No. 1 overall pick Chris Webber was brought on board to be the face of a new era in Kings basketball. Webber was apparently unaffected by the long-running jinx the team had on lottery picks—probably because he was actually drafted by the Washington Bullets.


Additionally, the team found a diamond in the rough in Peja Stojakovic, acquired proven Center Vlade Divac, and drafted a small point guard from the University of Florida—Jason Williams, who quickly became one of the hottest attractions in the NBA. The foundation for what would be the greatest run in Sacramento sports history had been laid—a run that narrowly edged out Sacramento's previous crowning athletic achievement (the time a mini horse made an improbable run through an arm wrestling tournament at an Orangevale bar).

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