Sports franchises, like pay cable TV shows and Real Housewives casts, will always have fan favorites. The Kings have historically had a disproportionate number of them, owed partially to these favorites often being the few bright spots in otherwise bleak years, and partially to Sacramento being particularly protective, and hokey, in a charming way, of/about those players that ingratiate themselves to this fan base. Now there are personal preference fan favorites. I have said in the past, and sincerely meant it, that Jim Jackson is my favorite King of all time. Bradley Geiser has expressed, on any number of occasions, and in a variety of formats, his affection for the great Travis Outlaw. And we've all been mutual in our adoration of our time spent with John Salmons. But there are certain players that spellbind the collective.
Isaiah Thomas was a unique case. Rarely has a player so embodied so much of what sports fans in general, and Sacramento Kings fans in particular, embrace in a folk hero and fan favorite. He was the last pick in the second round of the NBA draft. He was the second guard taken by a team that had drafted a much hyped combo guard prospect in that same year's lottery. He initially showed signs of life, and ultimately stuck, on a roster that, without him, was far too skewed to mediocre guard play and hero ball. That would have been enough. But he transcended those with his advocacy for Sacramento, with those Pizza Guy commercials that became a thing, with the way he made manifest, to a lot of people, the underdog spirit that carried our city through the relocation saga. To some degree Isaiah's anti-climactic, some may argue ignominious, departure from Sacramento almost cements that legacy. When the front office didn't offer him an extension fans took it personally. Not just for Isaiah. But for themselves.
You can't replace Isaiah. You can't replace Isaiah simply because you can't replace him as a personality. But you also can't replace him because, as anybody on the rebound knows, it takes time to develop affection for a person, patience as Axl Rose would whistle. Forcing affection defeats the purpose of affection.
Clearly Cousins is our favorite. But he can't really be a favorite because he's too good. Could Chicago practically call Michael Jordan their fan favorite? A fan favorite has to have some cultish appeal, a combined quality of diamond in the rough uniqueness and local celebrity. Honestly that was the appeal of Cousins on the Olympic team. The problem with the Kings is that after Cousins and Gay...oh and Jason Thompson...there isn't an awful lot of consistency on this roster.
The good news, given a roster of perpetually moving pieces, is that there is no shortage of players for whom to develop fondness. Omri Casspi, serving his second Sacramento tour of duty. Ramon Sessions, one man Wolf Pack (he went to UNR). Ben McLemore, the new Pizza Guy. The bad news, given a roster of perpetually moving pieces, is that there is no shortage of players for whom to develop fondness who will be abruptly traded to another franchise for second round picks and cash considerations. Ben McLemore remains the most logical fan favorite. He's already a favorite of sorts. He's talented. He's affable. He cares. And these are all reasons why he'll endear himself to us in just enough time to be traded to Boston for a sullen Rajon Rondo and we'll all start fearing "The Curse of the Pizza Guy."
I'd say Stauskas. But he's Canadian. Carly Landry. But he's 80.
So ultimately what are the requirements for a fan favorite? It helps to have overcome a bit of adversity. It helps to know you'll be around for something approximating the long haul. It helps to know there's something, or somethings, that differentiate you from any other player in the league. It helps to be a question mark to a lot of other NBA fandoms. Which is why, logically, Sacramento's future fan favorite? Sim Bhullar.
What's that? He was just traded to Milwaukee for a game worn Oscar Robertson jersey and 3 cases of Miller Lite? Oh. Are those Miller Lites at least in the throwback can? They are? Good. There's that.