Wednesday night in Sacramento, the Kings did their best Keyser Soze impression.
Just like that, they were gone.
Word has not yet come out that the Kings (soon to be Royals) are officially moving to Anaheim, but the sense of finality and loss that was palpable in Power Balance Pavilion told a different story.
It was fitting that in their last night in Sacramento, the Kings were unable to best the Lakers. After years of punishment at the hands of their in-state rival, Wednesday’s loss was a painfully poetic way to go out. The team performed in its last game in Sacramento the same way it had performed for years.
Beloved by fans, close to victory, but ultimately just not good enough.
It has not been formally announced that the Kings are relocating. The Maloofs, fearful of the drop in ticket sales such an announcement would cause, were very smart in this regard. They will wait until the season is over, until their plans for the team have been finalized, to break Sacramento’s heart.
It was reported that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson watched the season finale, then immediately flew across the country to meet with NBA owners in a last-ditch effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
This can either be seen as the last gasp of a man desperate to keep his city’s NBA franchise, or as an effort that is simply too little, too late.
But the players, fans and team personnel saw last night for what it was—a bitter goodbye to a team that has meant everything to a city that has very little going for it. Team announcers Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds sensed this as they tearfully signed off of Sacramento airwaves one last time.
Marcus Thornton and Samuel Dalembert, ironically two of Sacramento’s newest Kings, sensed this as well and treated Power Balance Pavilion’s packed house to performances that were as good as they could muster.
As a team, the Kings did right by Sacramento in their final performance here. They played as a unit, with passion, enthusiasm and a true appreciation for their fan base. In a season that has gone just about as poorly as it possibly could have, this kind of effort means the world.
It seems that Sacramento fans have been abandoned by the Kings. We have been abandoned by the Maloofs, and hung out to dry by the city itself. As painful as this is, the players themselves gathered their collective efforts and eased the city’s pain for 48 minutes. The importance of their effort cannot be overstated.
The Kings probable final game in Sacramento was a fitting tribute to the team. Even in hard times, the fans supported them. Even when the odds were long and Kobe Bryant himself was staring into their souls, eager to destroy them, they stood up, played hard and gave the fans their money’s worth.
No one in Sacramento is happy that the Kings are leaving. This city will miss the team dearly. But last night was one final reminder of the basketball magic that still exists within Sacramento. Even in a meaningless game, against an opponent far more talented than the Kings, the team and the city existed as one, and the electricity they created was tangible.
There aren’t very many NBA cities where this can happen. And although the team surely owes a debt to its fans for the years of support and adulation they have provided, it is important that the fans thank the team for its efforts as well. Last night was a small example of this effort, but in a way it was a microcosm of the Kings' existence in Sacramento.
So thank you, Kings. Thank you for giving this city years of excitement.
Thank you for the semblance of relevance you provided to us.
Thank you for your effort and energy.
Thank you for representing this city so well for so long.
You will be missed.