The Kings franchise has yet to win an NBA championship in Sacramento, but the capital of California won its own title in May when the NBA's owners decided the purple and black belonged here.
A spectacular rally was already held at Cesar Chavez Park in May celebrating this decision, but tonight is another chance, a more intimate chance, for Sacramento to come together as one with its basketball team in its antiquated, but familiar arena - a place that Kings fans weren't sure they would return to in April.
The relocation drama of the last three years revolved mainly around the Maloof family's interest in moving the team to Anaheim and Seattle. But what defined the drama, and ultimately helped lead to the final outcome, was the heart of Sacramento.
Combined with a little bit of luck, the push from Kings fans, residents of the Sacramento region, local businesses and the leadership of Mayor Kevin Johnson and others, repeatedly showed the NBA that its decision was never about Anaheim, Virginia Beach or Seattle. The decision was always about Sacramento and whether or not it could put the pieces in the place to save its only professional franchise.
Sacramento proved it has what it takes and it set the bar for preventing relocation in the process. It set an example for the rest of the league - if a city displays passion to keep its team and that passion is backed up by business and political support, then it is going to keep that team and all of the benefits (civic pride, an identity, jobs, economic activity, etc.) that come with it.
Sacramento gave the league an opportunity to show that franchise stability is important, which played a key role in David Stern's and Adam Silver's push to keep the Kings in Sacramento, according to the Sports Business Journal.
"In the balance was an astounding franchise price of $406 million, along with a relocation fee rumored to be around $75 million, which would be split among ownership.
None of that mattered to Silver as he surgically cut through the posturing, pushing to keep the Kings in California and sending a message to owners and the fans about the importance of franchise stability."
Stern, who will be at the arena tonight for the home opener, has been a true supporter of Sacramento throughout this process and deserves a warm welcome in his own right. He is certainly following the arena progress in Sacramento closely. And it's pretty telling that the league, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, believes the challenge from the group trying to put the city's arena financing plan on the ballot will only lead to more support for an arena from the people of Sacramento.
Tonight's season opener against the Denver Nuggets is about that never-ending support and the will and determination of this city that kept the Kings here and will continue the momentum to get the downtown arena built.
So if you have done anything, big or small, up until this point to help the effort (wearing a purple shirt on a "Here We Purple" day, flying out to a Board of Governors meeting, purchasing/donating a ticket to a Here We Stay or Here We Buy Night, signing Carmichael Dave's Playing To Win RV, speaking at a city council meeting alongside Crown Downtown), then you are a piece of the puzzle that has and will continue to help build momentum in Sacramento, and you deserve to celebrate tonight.
Heck, if you haven't done any of these things other than simply take pride in being a Kings fan, then you deserve to celebrate. Celebrate your fandom and celebrate the jobs Sacramento saved and the future jobs the new arena will create.
It's a new era with new owners (Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov deserve a rousing welcome tonight as well), new coaches, a new general manager and a new arena on the horizon. The only thing that is not new are the fans. These are the same fans that in 1985 filled the American River College gym up to the rafters for a practice when the Kings first came to Sacramento. The same fans that left George Karl's ears ringing in the 1996 Rattle Seattle series. The same fans that drove Phil Jackson crazy behind the bench with cowbells.
These aren't the Anaheim Royals.
These aren't the Seattle SuperSonics.
These are your Sacramento Kings.
So Kings fans - if you plan to be at the game tonight, go out there and make David Stern's and Vivek Ranadive's ears ring - give them a refresher on why they went all in on Sacramento.