2011 has proven to be quite a gut punch for thousands of displaced Sacramento Kings fans.
A year that began with an extremely optimistic outlook has soured considerably as the Kings have struggled mightily on the court.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans has regressed, DeMarcus Cousins has had flashes of greatness but has also displayed consistent immaturity and poor decision making throughout the year, then there was the incessant speculation that the Maloofs have been in negotiations with the city of Anaheim in an attempt to relocate the franchise.
I've witnessed a lot of down years for the Sacramento Kings, but this one takes the cake.
As Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson eloquently put it two weeks ago, "(the Maloofs) have one foot out the door, and three, maybe four toes on the other foot out as well."
The Kings are gone. There will be minor red tape to cut through, there will be the last-ditch effort by the most loyal of Kings fans to beg and plead for their team to stay, there will be plenty of i's to dot and t's to cross in a lengthy and complicated litigation with Anaheim, but beginning next year, the Sacramento Kings as we know them will be no more.
Anaheim Royals is the name. As much as it pains yours truly, a devout fan of the Sacramento Kings since "Saved by the Bell" made its debut, and thousands of others, we have to grow accustomed to it.
Take the first step in what could be a lengthy rehabilitation. Allow the healing process to begin. Let this article be your guide towards inner peace and potentially some direction.
Provided is a Top 10 list designed to aid grieving Kings fans in finding themselves a new team to pull for.
(And remember, this is told from a Sacramento Kings fans perspective, NBA nation.)
The Celtics have a few reasons for which dislodged Sacramento fans should root for them.
No current players ever played for the Kings, but Boston beat the Lakers (Kings fans hate the Lakers for those who are unaware) in the NBA Finals in 2008, and Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge played for the Kings in the late '80s.
Boston stands as one of the few obstacles that could prevent Kobe Bryant from getting his sixth championship ring this June.
The Sixers have three former Kings on their roster: Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni and Darius Songaila.
Sacramento fans can sympathize with the Philadelphia faithful, as the Sixers have missed the playoffs four of the last six years.
Sacramento can quickly identify with an owner who has no problem delivering swift kicks to their fans' stomachs.
The New Orleans Hornets, an organization which just recently moved from NBA hotbed Charlotte to New Orleans, are now a league-owned property due to former owner George Shinn's ineptitude.
On the court, former King Carl Landry will be serving as the starting power forward due to David West's long-term injury.
Side note: Hornets guard Jarrett Jack is unaware Sacramento is in California.
Not a single player on the roster has any experience with the Kings; however, head coach Vinny Del Negro played for the Sacramento Kings briefly in the late '80s/early '90s.
If only because the Clippers will become a direct rival to the Anaheim Royals beginning next season due to proximity, the Clippers belong on this list.
Sacramento roots are sprinkled throughout Orlando's deep roster.
Kings fans remember Hedo Turkoglu and his penchant for taking and making the big shot while with Sacramento, and power forward Ryan Anderson hails from the Sacramento area.
Sacramento and Orlando both share the distinction of being the only game in town, as the Magic are the only professional sports team in Orlando, and the same can be said for the Kings in Sacramento.
The picture above must bring back distinct memories of John Salmons and his exuberant expressions when a call didn't go his way. Milwaukee is a blue-collar, small-market city like Sacramento.
Their roster features former Kings alumni John Salmons and Jon Brockman, plus Drew Gooden had a cup of coffee as a King in 2009 before being bought out and acquired by the Spurs.
Additionally, Sacramento can relate to Milwaukee in that they know what it's like to blow a rare chance at the first overall pick by drafting a stiff center who can't stay healthy when there were multiple would-be All-Stars to be had. Pervis Ellison, meet Andrew Bogut.
Lou Amundson flirted with the Kings during a training camp five years ago, but the Warriors roster is composed of zero former Sacramento representatives.
The obvious draw is the close proximity between Sacramento and Oakland, with the two franchises playing just about 90 miles apart from each other.
The fact that the Kings and Warriors never developed a rivalry because there was never a time when they were both competitive allows for Sacramento fans to hop on the Warriors bandwagon.
Geographically, the Kings and the Blazers share similarities, but the two organizations have a lot more in common than sharing the Pacific coastline.
Both are small-market teams who have the luxury of boisterous and supportive fan bases. Portland and Sacramento also both established lengthy stretches of consecutive playoff appearances in recent memory.
Recent addition Gerald Wallace plays in Portland, with Wallace being one of the last remaining shreds of evidence from when the Kings were last relevant.
The Houston Rockets enlist a virtual who's who of former Kings contributors.
Head coach Rick Adelman and many of his former Sacramento assistants call the shots, Brad Miller mans the high post and Kevin Martin scores with relative ease.
Adelman has the surging Rockets headed towards the playoffs despite significant injuries, something he did consistently while he served as coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Hell. to. the. Naw.
David Stern has publicly admitted that he has regrets about the fact that Vancouver and Seattle no longer have professional basketball in their eccentric cities. In a few weeks, he can add Sacramento to that dubious list as well.
Sacramento couldn't publicly finance a new venue due to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, Kings ownership decided to move their home of 26 years to Anaheim, but the blood is on Stern's hands ultimately.
It is Stern who essentially put his steel-toed boots to the necks of the cities of Seattle and Sacramento and demanded new arenas or he would ultimately endorse and aid in the relocation of both franchises.
One week after the Seattle Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, David Stern was asked in a press conference, 'You said Seattle was a great city with great fans, but if even a great city with great fans can lose their long-time team, what does that say?'
After a nine-second pause where you could literally hear a pin drop, Stern smugly replied, 'Well, I guess since most of our cities have state-of-the-art facilities that allow them to compete in our league, it says congratulations to them."
Everyone complains that baseball is corrupt with the nonexistent salary cap, but the reality is the NBA is the league facing that issue (Tim Donaghy notwithstanding).
There's a reason only nine different franchises have won an NBA title in the last 28 years. It's an unbalanced playing field where small markets can't realistically compete for championships.
How many times do the other 28 cities have to watch Los Angeles and Boston compete for a title?
So do what this Kings fan is preparing to do...don't follow any NBA team.