Sacramento Kings: City Proves to the NBA Exactly How Much They Love Their Team

David SpohnCorrespondent IApril 26, 2011

David Stern seems genuinely intrigued by the public outcry of support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
David Stern seems genuinely intrigued by the public outcry of support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

It took millions of dollars in new corporate partnerships, immeasurable passion from its reinvigorated fanbase and a legendary presentation from its former NBA star Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The city of Sacramento showed precisely how much it loves its basketball team, and the NBA took notice.

Just two short weeks ago, it was a virtual certainty that the Sacramento Kings would be transplanted to Anaheim and be known as the Royals beginning next season.

The Maloofs thought that picking up and relocating the Kings would be as simple as tearing off a Band-Aid. They had one foot and four toes out the door, the lucrative deal had been negotiated with Anaheim, the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed.

Use any cliche you so desire, but Sacramento was presented with a 30-day notice that their team was effectively gone by year's end and there was nada they could do about it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Southern California.

From the first home game after the Anaheim rumors began against the Clippers until the final emotion-filled home game against the Lakers, Sacramento fell in love with their Kings all over again.

It began with an outcrying of support and devotion via social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and gained enormous momentum like an 80-foot wave.

This wasn't going to go down like when the Rams bolted Los Angeles, or when the Hornets deserted Charlotte, or when Vancouver lost the Grizzlies.

Rather than sit idly by and allow the Kings to leave, Kevin Johnson strapped on his boxing gloves and delivered a crushing haymaker to the jaw of Henry Samueli, the billionaire owner of the Anaheim Ducks and the man who wants nothing more than to bring the NBA to Anaheim.

Mayor Johnson was granted the opportunity to present the definitive case as to why the NBA needs Sacramento and why Sacramento needs the NBA.

He relentlessly pursued, and finalized, considerable corporate sponsorship and presented the foundation for the most realistic new arena plan in Sacramento to date.

Considered by many to be a feeble attempt, KJ took a big swing and knocked it out of the park. If Seattle had a Mayor like this, Kevin Durant would still be a SuperSonic.

He single handedly forced David Stern's hand, and thus earned a visit from the NBA's relocation committee to evaluate the Sacramento situation closely.

True to form as the politician he is, Johnson impressed the committee and sent them on their way confident that the NBA can, and will, thrive in California's capital.

Meanwhile, the city of Anaheim sits idly by dazed and confused. In late March, the Anaheim city council unanimously approved a $75 million bond to upgrade and renovate the Honda Center to NBA standards.

That was believed to be the last significant hurdle for a relocation to take effect.

A committee headed by Sacramento politician and native Rob Stutzman rendered that approval meaningless, as he ventured down to Anaheim and gathered enough signatures to delay the issuance of the $75 million in bonds.

The measure will now be voted on in June 2012, which effectively threw a wrench the size of a Volkswagen into the relocation process.

The Maloofs had been negotiating behind closed doors with Henry Samueli for months. Terms were agreed upon (and it should be noted, the Maloofs' portion of the financial agreement pales in comparison to the outlandish demands they made as part of Sacramento's failed arena proposals), everything was in place, and the brothers Maloof kept their mouths shut for political reasons.

Then rumors spilled out, from of all places Commissioner Stern's mouth during his state of the league address in February, that there were indeed flirtations between Anaheim and the Kings. 

Since the release of the Anaheim rumors, the brothers have appeared at just one home game, a Feb. 28 affair against the Clippers, where deafening chants of 'Here We Stay,' 'Sac-ra-mento' and 'Anaheim Sucks' throughout the game filled the antiquated ARCO Arena.

The Maloofs have made an earnest attempt to not speak about Anaheim on the record. A gag order was absolutely placed on Kings television and radio broadcasts, as nary a word was spoken about anything relocation-related.

As loud as ARCO was that night, the Maloofs silence through this tedious process has been even louder. But actions speak louder than words.

Their absence from their patented courtside seats, their decision to not even bother putting up the letters 'Power Balance Pavilion' for the last six weeks of the season, and their eyebrow-raising choice to give said courtside seats to Laker fans for the team's final home game against the hated Lakers has left Sacramento fans with a hellbent scorn towards their once-beloved owners.

Consequently, the situation has evolved from a peaceful separation to a hideous divorce.

Sacramento and the contingent of Kings supporters made their love for the team crystal clear. A team that has been the laughingstock of the league for the last five years, a roster where the role of veteran sage is filled by Francisco Garcia of all people, a coach who has won just 49 of the 164 games since taking over as head man.

Through all of that, Sacramento still embraced their beloved Kings. Through historically devastating financial times, record unemployment rates, work furloughs, and as mentioned, paltry performance on the court, this community wrapped its collective arms around their lovable losers.

Incredibly, despite all of the fan support and financial wherewithal promised, the Maloofs still appear to be adamant about moving the franchise to Anaheim.

Various news sources have all but guaranteed the Kings will play in Sacramento next year, leaving the Maloofs in the very precarious position as lame-duck owners.

The Maloofs have refuted it for months, but they have a major cash flow problem. The economy tanked, the recession began and Las Vegas went from trendy destination to after thought. What do you think that did to the value of their prime jewel, The Palms?

So they liquidated their assets, including the Sacramento Monarchs, and their late father's prized possession, a New Mexico beer distributorship. They put all of their eggs in one basket, and that one basket was the Kings.

The Kings began their slow demise, from NBA championship contender to NBA afterthought. The team's salary cap went from one of the highest in the league to dead last in the league.

The roster went from Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic to Kevin Martin, Mikki Moore, John Salmons and Spencer Hawes.

As passionate and supportive as Sactown is for its Kings, there isn't a city in the free world that would care about a nameless, uninspired, losing group like that.

It's no coincidence that the struggles of the Kings emulate the financial struggles of Joe and Gavin Maloof.

In that way, the city of Sacramento was unlucky to have an ownership group with a varying net worth like the Maloofs instead of a stable financial rock of an owner, like say Ron Burkle or Mark Cuban.

Burkle bought the Penguins and transformed them from joke to contender, pumping money into the roster, turning wins and consistent playoff appearances into a gorgeous new venue, and getting the city of Pittsburgh an NHL championship in just a few short years.

Cuban bought the Mavericks and similarly changed the culture of losing into winning by consistently keeping his salary cap number among the highest in the league, cleverly oversaw the financing and construction of a sparkling new arena, and his Mavs have won 50 or more games for 10 straight seasons.

The Maloofs hit the ground running in Sacramento the first three to four years of ownership, but simply put, they aren't fiscally stable enough to maintain long-term competitiveness.

Not without a new arena, laden with a couple hundred box seats, amenities and overpriced parking and concessions.

But the Maloofs have the chance to embrace Sacramento the same way the city does its Kings.

Terminate negotiations with Anaheim immediately. Rededicate to the same city to which they share so many indelible memories and have made countless charitable contributions.

Reinvest in a community to which they themselves have belonged for more than 12 years.

The Maloofs may be broke. Sacramento might be broke. But one thing they are both rich in is their undisputed love for their basketball team. Let's rise together. What do you say, Joe and Gavin?


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