David Stern became NBA commissioner on February 1, 1984. A few months later I was born. A year later the Sacramento Kings came into existence. Stern is the only commissioner that I or the Sacramento Kings have ever known. On February 1, 2014, that association comes to an end.
The story of how the Kings stayed in Sacramento has been told time and time again around here, but I can think of no more fitting story to explain what David Stern meant to the Sacramento Kings. I hope you'll indulge me once more.
The Kings needed a new arena for a long time. A very long time. Sactown Royalty's first post filed under the arena section is dated August 3rd, 2006. Sactown Royalty has only existed since late 2005. That section has over 450 entries.
Throughout the process of Sacramento attempting to get a new arena plan in place, David Stern's watchful eye was never far away. There were times when he seemed resigned to the inevitable, washing his hands of the process. Other times he was in the heart of the fight. He sent his top people to review the situation in Sacramento. One of them, Chris Granger, is now the President of the Sacramento Kings.
NBA fans in Seattle are happy to see Stern go. They view him as the guy who took the Sonics away, and then wouldn't let them take the Kings. I'm still uncertain as to how much Stern may or may not have fought for the Kings to stay in Sacramento. Time will tell. But I don't give him full credit for the Kings staying. There are too many other people who had a hand in that. Kevin Johnson, VivekRanadive, Mark Mastrov, Ron Burkle. Hell, the entire current ownership group. The fans. Oh, the Kings fans. To say that Stern is single handedly responsible for the Kings being in Sacramento is too narrow-minded, too simplistic a view of an extraordinarily complex process that led to a rather improbable outcome.
But I can say for certain that we wouldn't have the Kings today if it wasn't for Stern.
What David Stern gave Sacramento was the chance to fight. It's easy to forget now, but the NBA never had to allow Sacramento an opportunity to present a counter option against relocation. We weren't owed an opportunity to assemble an ownership group. None of that was a given. That was David Stern.
Why he did it is unclear. Did he hear the fans? Did he want to avoid another franchise relocation right before his retirement? Did he believe in the Sacramento market? Did he really just despise the Maloofs and what they had done to franchise in his league? Again, time may tell, or we may never know.
But David Stern gave us a chance.