"In play there are two pleasures for your choosing - The one is winning, and the other losing." - Lord Byron
"Any obsession is dangerous. And a whole country that's obsessed with one thing, unless it's, like, jeans, it's very dangerous." - Christina Ricci
Here, once again we find ourselves on the precipice of sorrow or glory, tragedy or triumph, emptiness or fulfillment beyond our most hopeful dreams... but what does it all mean? Why are we fans? Why the Kings? What kind of horrific forces were at play to put that Horry 3 ball in the bucket?
I often look over the expanse of my Kings fandom as it hovers over the flames of Seattle and drink in the foul brew with fury. I am a fan of the Sacramento Kings and I want to keep being a fan of the Sacramento Kings.
In an effort to stave off the demons, I chose to take keyboard in hand and unleash the words in my soul.
This is my team, and this is my story...
I spent my early life in rural Georgia joining my criminally leaning father in running Pong consoles, flash-frozen foodstuffs and body creams into Kansas City where the price for all three was well above market standards. "Pops" made a killing in those days as his body cream especially was known far and wide throughout the athletic underground as "bitchin'." The legend of this cream, coupled with a hallucinogenic vision my father had in '69 (he called it Prophecy) would ultimately guide me into the center of a fandom and way of life that has enriched and haunted me for decades upon decades upon decades. Upon decades.
Anyway, if my memory serves me right, a skilled Kansas City Kings power forward by the name of Reggie King (coincidence...or fate?) was deeply into my Dad's powerful body creams. Some might say it bordered on obsession.
The KC Kings had a so-so year back in whenever the hell this was...80-81, nothing to brag about but it was over.500 and just enough to get them into the playoffs. That's when King and some other dudes I can't remember opened up a can of body cream-fueled whoop ass, propelling the team all the way to the conference finals... where Houston handed them their ass in 5 games. But the damage was done and a legend was born in the locker room. Father's body creams were the bomb. Everybody wanted a piece. Cash money was flowin' y'all and I can remember well how he made it rain, daily, nightly.
Unfortunately, that's about when it also went to hell. Pops developed a cocaine habit that enabled him to party hard but ultimately was not in his best interests. At the same time, the roof fell off of Kemper Arena (harbinger of a decades-later tarp collapsing incident?), the team's general manager was busted for re-using postage stamps (not kidding people) and Joe Axelson came on the scene to finish the job in suffocating the franchise. It seemed as if my fate was tied to the Kings early on. My life, a confusing mess. The Kansas City Kings: same shit. Eventually we weren't even allowed in the locker room anymore to peddle our wares.
Before too long my father disappeared on a drug-soaked bender and I was on my own, a young tween with nowhere to go and nothing to lose. I wandered through the midwest plying my trade as a lot lizard, drug dealer, farmer, tech consultant and waiter. Slowly but surely I made my way west to the Golden Foothills of the Sierras: Placerville AKA Old Dry Diggins AKA Hangtown. This is where I found my true calling as an alchemist and metal smith. I settled down in a cabin at the end of a dirt road and bought my first radio which subsequently became locked on to KZAP.
It wasn't long after my 14th year of living that I was surprised by some crazy-ass news: Kings were moving to Sacramento. The move was not a surprise. Things had imploded, then gotten worse in KC... but the location? I couldn't help but feel that they were following me, that I had somehow dragged them across the land using some form of psychic magnetism. In fact: I know it to be true.
I made my reconnection to the Kings by first offering my services as a bronze casting expert and chemical alchemist to help a couple of twin brother artists cast the large, ill-advised bronze sculptures that would come to be placed outside of the original 10,000+ seat mini-arena. My work in this effort earned me not only pay but a season ticket that I used to attend games (usually lower-tier teams like the then hapless Clippers or the Cleveland Cavs), sold for big money (Lakers, Celtics, etc.) or traded (for chemicals, exotic weapons, airplane tickets to Argentina). Though unlicensed and illegally passing myself off as an adult (though I looked younger than my age I was well-stocked with all sorts of false ID) I ended up buying a limousine and offering my services as a driver for the nouveau riche of Roseville. I remember fondly sitting in the backseat outside Arco listening to Gary Gerould while enjoying pizza, rolling the windows down to catch the roar of the crowd.
One special memory: I had been hired to drive champion ice skaters Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner from their hotel to Arco for an exhibition. In walking them through the halls, we bumped into Reggie Theus who was finishing up some kind of meeting. He clearly was enticed by the ice princess. As we wandered on I held back and tried to chat up Theus. He was very kind and listened to my inane patter for several minutes... and when the discussion of shoes came around, he asked me what size I wear. "14."
"How about you give her my number and I give you a signed pair of my Converse shoes?"
"How about F__k yeah!"
"Hey man, no need to use that kind of language."
"Oh, yeah, sorry. So... yes, I'll do it."
I wish I still had those. Instead of keeping them safe, I wore them as my everyday shoes until they fell apart.
There were dark times as well. I took several friends to a Warriors game once and we thought it would be a great idea to ingest massive quantities High Desert Lophophora Williamsii before settling in. Near mid-second quarter we were dragged screaming from the arena by security. My friend Bleu had nearly had a psychotic break upon seeing Manute Bol take the floor and drill a 3 ball.
As great as the early times were, nothing could compare to the sweet reward of being a Kings fan during the golden age. We had game. It was beautiful. I remember climbing up the side of an apartment building at great peril, in the howling 5pm SF ocean wind with mad seagulls attacking my massive afro, to install a dish to catch my first league pass game... it was Kings and the T-Wolves in Japan, the debut of the ill-fated Nick Anderson. As we enjoyed the ever-increasing glory of totally dope Kings ball (caught on VHS to savor), as we rose like Lazarus... it felt wonderful. The pain of defeat was brutal, though. You know what I mean. Damn. Still hurts.
And then it all got crazy.
I don't have the energy to describe all of the ups and downs I experienced over the last few years. We were all there. I went to that allegedly "last" Lakers game and screamed "HERE WE STAY," feeling futility overwhelm me while watching the players hit the court post-game for farewells. I cried to a video set to a Tesla song... a personal moment of confusion for me. I just gave in and wept. To Tesla. I never saw that coming.
Yet, despite what was labeled inevitable, we stayed.
Here we are again and though it is not the same, one thing IS the same. Doubt KJ if you want, I am a believer until proven wrong.
When the darkness threatens to overtake you, please soak in these words that I type to you now - The Kings are not going anywhere.
How do I know this? Inside info? Gut feeling? Nope. I saw it all in a pool, deep in a cave in the Northern Coast of Venezuela. I saw the future of the Kings unfold like a lotus flower and in the center was a vision: Burkle and KJ were cruising at high speed down the Sacramento River in a beautiful purple boat... with Mastrov skiing behind them, howling, laughing, naked.
I just want to say one thing to all of you doubters out there: Trust me, I am an alchemist.
Peace be upon you.
Sacramento Kings forever and ever.