Last night the Sacramento Kings concluded their season with an OT loss the LA Lakers in front of a standing room only crowd at Power Bar Pavilion (formerly known as the great Arco Arena). With a proposed move to Anaheim pending, the game was in all likelihood the fitting conclusion to the franchise’s existence in Sacramento. After all when the Kings were in their heyday sporting a line-up of Webber, Divac, Stojakovic, and Williams it was the hated rival Lakers who perpetually stood between the Kings and their World Championship aspirations. No matter how hard or long the cowbells rang on Wednesday night the energy provided by the fans at Arco Arena couldn’t propelled the young and talented Kings to a victory over the team’s long time nemesis.
The loss did little to dismiss the emotions and loyalty that many of Kings had displayed towards the franchise since it arrived in Sacramento in 1986, as many remained in the arena cheering and reliving the memories of past victories in their minds.
How the Kings got to the point of leaving Sacramento is a long story that has ebbed from a battle over the funding for a new arena to a battle about funds in general. The Maloof brothers, who own both the Kings and the Palms casino in Vegas, are by all reports cash strapped and are proposing a move to Anaheim principally to place themselves in a better financial position (I’m thinking that teaming up with the Playboy label hasn’t paid the dividends the Maloofs thought it would).
Not even recent attempts to build a new arena through public funding by Sacramento mayor and former player Kevin Johnson have swayed the Maloofs determination to move the franchise. Indeed the last hurdle standing in their way is a vote by the owners, where a simple majority vote will leave Sacramento without a professional franchise and the greater Los Angeles area with three. (NBA owners have never denied a proposal from another owner to move their franchise).
Removing the Kings from Sacramento might be the best option for the financial strapped Maloofs, but this doesn’t mean that the NBA should give up on Sacramento. If a particular ownership group has proven to be poor owners, how will relocating a team to another city change their managing style? Additionally, even though Anaheim is arguably a different market than LA, it is still a region with two basketball franchises already in place. Anaheim may have the arena and population to support an NBA franchise, but I fail to see how the NBA is furthering its own product by having another franchise in the Los Angeles region.
If the Maloofs had said they wanted to relocate to San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, overseas, or anywhere there isn’t currently an NBA product and I could see the logic in the NBA supporting that. However, removing a team from not only a strong basketball fan base, but one of the larger metro/regional population areas in the country because of poor ownership and local political fumblings is ridiculous.
Phil Jackson provided Sacramento with the national label of Cowtown USA, but the region is hardly as podunk as it might seem. Ranking 25th in metro region population, Sacramento is larger than 10 other metro regions that currently have NBA franchises. The city is arguably the economic and cultural center for California’s entire northern central valley’s population, providing the NBA with a virtual monopoly over the region’s professional sporting choices for fans (something that can’t be said in 22 of the other regions franchises are located in). It is a region that has not only demonstrated the capacity to support an NBA franchise, but has some of the most die-hard and arguably the loudest fans in the league.
It cannot be ignored that attendance has fallen as of late, but last time I checked the country was in a recession and the Maloofs haven’t put the most compelling product on the floor (and let us please forget the argument that it is the fans responsibility to support a franchise which has been a perpetual lottery team for the last five years).
Both Sacramento and the Kings are currently in a rebuilding mode; Sacramento attempting to extricate itself from the recession and the Kings drafting promising talents such as Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. If NBA owners block the Kings proposed move to Anaheim they will force the Maloofs and the city to work together to find a mutual beneficial solution for keeping professional basketball in Sacramento. Specifically, this will revolve around the renovation of the former Arco Arena or the building of a new sports complex/arena in the city (something that the Sacramento area needs)
Deciding that the Kings need to stay in Sacramento is not only the prudent move on the NBA’s part, but it demonstrates to a great basketball fans base that the league believes in the importance of the region. The region’s support of the NBA’s product is worthy of saving; an uncommon way of thinking, but not necessarily unheard of from a professional league (NFL and Cleveland Browns). In addition to providing an emotional boost to the Sacramento region, the NBA might very well assist in the economic rehabilitation of the region by securing jobs and creating new ones with the renovation Arco Arena or building of a new arena.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of any of this happening is slim. The Maloofs wouldn’t be going forward with their proposed move if they didn’t think that they had the support of the required 15 owners. Still it would be refreshing if instead of greedily taking money from fan bases, the NBA actually gave back to a region and fans who are deserving of the league’s support. After all isn’t the NBA the league that “cares.”
Here is the sign off after the final game at Arco Arena from long time Kings broadcasters Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear: