On Tuesday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson all but confirmed the obvious: The Sacramento Kings will, inevitably, ditch the state's capital for Anaheim.
Johnson, the onetime Sacramento prep phenom turned mainstay of the Phoenix Suns, posted the following on his website: "It feels like a slow death. From the start of the saga that may soon close of the Kings' era in Sacramento, I have said the community should focus on what it can control, and not worry about the decisions that are out of our hands."
Johnson follows by warning that it now seems all but certain that the Kings will be playing out their final season in Sacramento and the once rambunctious ARCO Arena, or the recently renamed, puke-inducing "Power Balance Pavilion."
Full disclosure: I grew up in Sacramento. I'm still bitter about Game 6 in 2002 and believe every word Tim Donaghy said about it (as all conspiracy theorists in Sacramento do). Somewhere in my parents' garage in Citrus Heights, there probably are autographed basketball cards from onetime Kings favorites Lionel Simmons, Wayman Tisdale and Vlade Divac.
Now a San Francisco resident, I, like most Kings fans, have grown increasingly apathetic over the years toward the on-court product the Kings have supplied. Quite frankly, I don't blame Sacramento for rarely selling out games.
For those unfamiliar, while most in other major Californian cities—like San Francisco or Los Angeles—work in the private sector, Sacramento is populated mostly by state workers who have seen their paychecks dwindle or disappear as a result of the state's budget crisis.
State and government workers have become familiar with the term "furlough days." This, I became intimately familiar with around the same time as my dad did—who works for the state—while I was withering away in the newspaper business. Think: forced, recurring, unpaid days off.
It's not complicated: When a huge chunk of Sacramento's population saw 10-15 percent of their income vanish and the Kings were wheeling out a subpar product at prices that still reflected the "Greatest Show on Court" era, certain sacrifices had to be made.
This all makes perfect sense. Less expendable income plus increasingly crappy product equals fewer fans. So Joe and Gavin Maloof sought an exit plan.
What doesn't make sense is the plan they cooked up.
At some point, Sacramento's economy will bounce back. Sacramento badly needs a new arena rather than the outdated facility currently in place. Johnson continues to push for a new arena in spite of the Kings' impending departure.
I could borrow a Field of Dreams cliché, summon my best James Earl Jones impression and join the masses of Sacramento in saying, "if you build it, they will come," but the arena issue is a moot point in the grander scheme of things. Anaheim's Honda Center, where the Royals will play, has the ability to house 17,608 fans, a whopping 291 more fans than Power Balance Pavilion (17,317).
Certainly, the Los Angeles area has exponentially more advertising opportunities and free agents would be more likely to relocate to Southern California than the bustling metropolis of Sacramento. But, would either of the aforementioned benefits transpire if the newly-founded Royals had a dwindling, pathetic fanbase?
Even those from Southern California are laughing at the thought of a team that could actually play second-fiddle to the perennially second-fiddled Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers are king in Los Angeles. And even the Clippers' Blake Griffin trumps Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins on the popularity factor.
So what, a bunch of Orange County residents are going to embrace a team with open arms that they were taught to hate during the Kings-Lakers rivalry years and laugh at the rest of the time?
Sacramento still has a fiercely loyal fanbase intact and a mayor with deep basketball roots who is committed to getting an arena built. Kings fans have already shown in the form of a 497-game sellout streak from 1985 to 1997 that they are willing to support an average (at best) product.
This all looks like a knee-jerk reaction by the Maloof brothers that could look foolish when Southern California realizes it already has a historic basketball team, an up-and-coming one, two professional baseball teams, two hockey teams, two major college programs, movie stars, beaches etc. and, quite frankly, it doesn't care about a third NBA team.
Especially one likely a few years from being competitively relevant.
Whatever, they're all but gone, anyway.
Sacramento will have its memories. Any Sacramentan will be able find a good wall to put their fist through when someone brings up Robert Horry's three-pointer or be able to play the "what if" game when discussing Tim Donaghy or Chris Webber's knee circa 2003.
Some fans will continue to follow the Royals out of loyalty to Evans, Cousins and whatever residue of the current squad left in Sacramento. Others will simply stop following the NBA or jump on the rapidly-growing Giants bandwagon in San Francisco.
Me? I'm in the market for a new NBA team.
The first team to become the hated, bitter rival of the Anaheim Royals wins.