I’ve noticed, lately, that my article on the history of the Sacramento Kings (as I know it) has been getting a lot of hits, lately. I have an idea as to why.
Now, I have a confession to make: I was a bandwagon fan when the Kings rose to prominence, starting in 1998. I only follow them now as a passing interest – no longer the “live and die by their performance” fandom I experienced when I was in high school.
But that doesn’t make me any less depressed, now that the Kings franchise looks to be picking up and moving to Anaheim. The Sacramento Kings’ death knell most likely came on March 29, when, after weeks of rumors flying, the Anaheim City Council approved a $75 million bond that would aid in relocating the Kings to southern California, and make improvements to their potential new home, the Honda Center. With the move all but a forgone conclusion, the Maloofs have even taken steps to convert the team’s nickname back to their original franchise tag: the Royals.
This is a major blow to anyone who followed the Kings since they moved to Sacramento in 1985. Especially with how excruciatingly close the Kings of the early 21st century came to winning an NBA championship, it’s especially painful. It’s the same feeling you would get when you were a child, and you were watching your best friend from across the street pack up in a Uhaul and drive off with their parents.
Obviously, I’m not the only one who is distraught over the move. Kings faithful have tried everything to keep their team in Sacramento – from radio personalities like Carmichael Dave leading “Here We Build” campaigns, to Mayor Kevin Johnson pleading to the league in a bid to keep the Kings up north.
With the machine at full speed, though, I highly doubt anything can be done to stop it. Looking back, it was kind of a perfect storm for the Maloofs – for one thing, ARCO Arena (now called Power Balance Pavilion, which I literally wasn’t aware of until just a few minutes ago), as old as it was, signaled the demand for a new stadium as the franchise’s top priority. The bottom line, however, was that the city simply couldn’t afford it. Then there was the massive dropoff from the “old days” of the early 2000’s that saw the Kings as a perennial title contender. As the wins dwindled starting in 2007, the bottom dropped out for the Kings (as did their fanbase), reaching a “full-circle” state of futility starting in 2008. The 17,317-seat stadium no longer sold out, and the economics of the team staying in Sacramento started to make less sense.
Ultimately, from everything I’ve read on the subject, the only thing that can keep the Kings around is a bid in the realm of the billions of dollars, a new stadium, and revenue streams up the wazoo – things Sacramento simply cannot afford in the middle of a recession. Columnists like Sam Amick and Marcos Breton have posited – accurately, I might add – that the Maloofs are only following the money. After all, they have debts that they need to pay off, and Anaheim is willing to pony up the cash they need.
Now, personally, I never thought that talk of the Kings moving to Las Vegas that popped up a few years back would ever manifest into any realistic proposal, and I was right. It was the same thing I thought about this: There was no way that the Kings would move to a market that not only housed the only bitter rival they’ve ever had, but was so saturated that they would be the metaphorical “middle child” in the three-team household of the greater Los Angeles area. From that economic standpoint, it would stand to reason that they would avoid SoCal like the plague.
In the end, however, it’s about the moola. It’s all business, and the Maloofs, straight up, are businessmen – even worse, they’re businessmen in debt. I wish it was about the fans, about loyalty, about love of the team – and, in rare cases, it can be. But, unfortunately, that’s not how this works. This will most likely be the last season we see the Kings at ARCO–Err, I mean, Power Balance Pavilion, and the NBA, in general, in the greater Sacramento area. I know this sounds all doom-and-gloom, but how else can I spin this? As a Kings fan, it sucks.
So, in the likely event that the Kings do go down south (*snicker*) for the future, let me say this: Thanks for the memories. (And thanks for making us the next Seattle, WA.)