Here we are. The last hour of the last day of the last month... etc. I, for one, knew it would come down to the last moment. One last desperation attempt at keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
If the Kings stay, what will that mean to me? What will that continue to mean to me? How do the Kings translate to my life?
How important are they to me?
Break down after the jump.
Hi. My name is Kimani David, and I'm a lifelong (born in '89) Kings fan. My first game at Arco II was during the '94-95 season. I don't remember much of it, but I know the Kings beat the Warriors (Basketball Reference tells me it was 112-103 on January 19th). My dad played High School ball with Walt Williams' dad (Walt Williams incidentally was my favorite player at the time - I cried when he was traded to Miami for Billy effing Owens) and we had gotten free 3rd row tickets to the game. My dad had opportunities to take me to games before, but really, it's tough enough keeping a 5-year old to sit still for two hours (especially me), not to mention toddlers.
Here is a Pookey for you to all enjoy.
(Sorry for all the parentheticals - I know they are really displacing. I'd also like to mention that we had flown to Disneyland the next day and we saw the Kings beat the Clippers -in Anaheim- from the nosebleeds).
After those two games, I was in love. Spud Webb, Walt Williams, Mitch Richmond, Brian Grant. It was an easy team to fall in love with, and it didn't hurt that they were actually winning that season. I became more and more engrossed in Kings culture as time went on (even though I had abandoned the team after the Williams trade). I really became obsessed after my aunt bought season tickets in 1998. Yogi Stewart was my favorite player that season (and explains why blocks are my favorite stat), and Mitch Richmond was still on the team. I was unaware that that season would be the last in a long time in terms of futility. I was 9, and wearing anything Kings to school almost every day (when I didn't have Kings gear, I was sporting pokémon gear - my equal obsession).
Then '98-'99 happened.
For you newer fans, this season was the most exciting thing to happen to Sacramento since the gold rush. /hyperbole
We traded for Chris Webber, sending good 'ol Mitch Richmond away (he was nothing without Walt Williams... just kidding). We signed Vlade Divac. We drafted Jason Williams. It was Peja's first season with the team. We gave Vernon Maxwell (inexplicably one of my favorite NBA players ever) another shot. The Kings made the playoffs, dragging out a series with the unstoppable Utah Jazz. (That was a series we had no business being in, but we were competitive, and the rest of the NBA took notice). I was as excited as any fan could be for the next season, and rightfully so.
To me, that 98-99 season defined Sacramento as a franchise. To me, that 98-99 season defined my sports fandom. It made me crave more. That 98-99 season is a big reason why I am also a fan of the Atlanta Falcons (the other reason being that the 98 Superbowl was the first one I ever watched, and I felt bad for the Dirty Birds - that combined with the fact that a lot of my biolical family is based in the ATL. When Michael Vick was drafted, I was sold - I digress).
The 2000 season presented some struggles, namely with Jason Williams, and also presented our first playoff encounter with the LA L*kers. I've never hated any entity more than the L*kers, and that playoff series was a big part of it. I fully believe that had the Kings been able to win that series, they would have appeared in the Finals.
2001-2004 were some of the best years of my fledgling sports life (not counting Games 4, 6, and 7 of the 2002 WCF) and that was due in large part to the Kings. The Falcons were important, but the Kings were a consistent contender, and that is that.
It was sad seeing Webb's knee blow out. It was more sad to see him get traded (his walk towards the airplane after the trade was one of the most poetic moments I've ever witnessed - I'm no Jim Boehner, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry. I cried after Game 7 too, but that was out of pure frustration). It was sad seeing Peja's back deteriorate into algae, it was sad seeing Vlade go to the hated L*kers, it was sad seeing Brad Miller go from all-star to 'I don't give a shit.' It was sad seeing Doug get traded for Cuttino Mobley. It was sad seeing BJax go.
'05-'06 happened, and that was a nice break from our downward spiral. Bonzi Wells, good Ron, Kevin Martin's emergence, etc. Rick Adelman's last year in Sacramento. That Spurs series was fantastic, and again, that was a series that Sac had no business being competitive in (and had Brent Barry missed that shot, the Kings win the series - taking that game would have had the Kings up 3-1 with another game in Sacramento).
Musselman happened. And he was a large part of why Brad Miller devolved, why Mike Bibby became a jacker, and why good Ron pretty much disappeared. Reggie Theus, the coach who couldn't play by his own rules, both established Kevin Martin and ruined him at the same time. Kenny Natt.
Which brings us to today. Geoff Petrie has the reigns of the team back (by all appearances). The Kings are poised to compete in the next three years, with two potentially franchise-changing talents in place and a bunch of interesting players that also have potential. Fans must realize now that patience is a virtue.
Which rounds me into my initial point - What, if anything, do the Kings mean to me?
The Kings are a hobby for all of us, and they are a constant. The Kings fill a void in all of our lives, a concern and an obsession that is largely irreplaceable by another team. The Kings are my team. The Kings have been my team for as long, if not longer, than I can remember, which I suspect is the case for a lot of STR regulars. They have been my team for longer than they've been the Maloof's team.
The Kings, to me, are an establishment of respect around the city and greater area of Sacramento (at least, when they win more than 17 games). You could have nothing in common with someone in terms of politics or alternative hobbies, but the Kings have always been a uniting topic of discussion (and sometimes fracturing).
The Kings. The Sacramento Kings. It sounds natural, like saying the Sacramento River or the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Kings mean hope. The Kings mean respect and acclaim. The Kings mean unity.
The Kings mean business.
This threat to file (and I do believe at this point it is just a threat) is a last call to the city of Sacramento. It seems to me that California as a whole is rife with citizens who like to sit around and complain, without putting anything into action. This has been the case in almost every facet of Californian life that I've experienced, and this threat approximates that entire mentality into one, drastic and dire moment. Some of the citizens of Sacramento posses this 'somebody will do it' mentality, and I've been guilty of it as well. This mentality needs to disappear, and it seems like it has for a large contingent of fans who are participating in the 'Here We Stay' grassroots movement. If an arena deal gets done, that group (in my eyes) along with KJ will be responsible.
These are our Kings, don't you dare take them away from us.
I'd like to finish with some advice to the Maloofs: Don't give up on us yet. I know you expected this kind of positive activity 5 years ago, but it's happening, and it's happening now.
What I can promise you is that you will never see the support you've seen here for the team. I doubt the Honda Center (which isn't much better than Arco anyway, but that's another point) will sell out to the tune of 17k fans a night when/if you guys ever get around to putting a competitive product on the floor. That may happen as soon as midway through next year (come back to me when the Kings are 25-15 and Power Balance Pavilion is selling out - if they stay). I can promise you that will not happen in Anaheim, regardless of the product you put on the floor. I don't think Sacramento's economy will ever recover if the Kings leave, with the inner city becoming a 'Detroit west' and the outer area turning into Bakersfield - with no reason to live there, and those that do will be paying out the nose.
As far as my fandom, if the Kings leave, I will attempt to be a fan of the Portland Trailblazers, solely for the fact that they wear the same colors as the Falcons and they are a west coast team. I will always have a soft spot for the players on this current team, and I will hope beyond hope that they get traded away from the Anaheim Attack (or whatever stupid name they come up with), or even better, pull a LeBron on them.
Maloofs, be cautious. The Sacramento Kings are our team. You won't get what you have here (even if not much right now) anywhere else, and that includes Anaheim.
My thoughts may seem scattered, but I hope they read somewhat coherently.
I encourage everyone to go the Kings-Clippers game AKA the "Here We Stay, Goddamnit!" game. I'm currently in full tilt at UCSC so it isn't feasible (monetarily and time-wise) for me to go, but you can bet your ass I'll be contributing in someway to the movement. This post will be e-mailed to the Kings as soon as I revise it for e-mail, and I encourage others to do the same.