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Sacramento Kings

10 Ratings: 0.6
A professional basketball team in the Western Conference of the NBA.
1 review about Sacramento Kings

The Nomad Kings

  • Sep 20, 2012
Who are the Sacramento Kings? They're a forgotten relic of both the NBL and the rich history of professional basketball in upstate New York, that's what they are. In the entirety of their existence, they've had only slightly more success than their California brethren, the Golden State Warriors (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...d_No_One_Knows_it_.html) and Los Angeles Clippers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...lipped_and_Trimmed.html) (the Clippers themselves also beginning life as an upstate New York team). And as with the Warriors, they're another example of how grossly unfair basketball history can sometimes be.

The NBA takes the founding of the Sacramento Kings all the way back to 1945, but that's only the year they joined the National Basketball League. The team traces its real origins all the way to a semi-pro team from the 1920's, an era when pretty much every effort at establishing professional basketball folded within seconds. Back then, the Kings existed as a corporate sponsor team called the Rochester Seagrams. Located in Rochester, New York, and named the Seagrams after a local distillery, the team had already been around for close to two decades before someone got around to forming the NBL in 1937. As teams came and went through the NBL, the Seagrams were kept under the watchful eye of Hall of Famer Les Harrison, acquired better talent, actually got better, and eventually became a hidden gem of the city of Rochester.

The NBL started finding SOME success after World War II and, in search of well-run and successful operations to lend a hand to the league, they were naturally referred to Rochester. I guess to honor their new professional status, the team changed its name to the Rochester Pros and moved to a nice new 4500-seat arena. When the invitation to join the NBL became official in 1945, Harrison and his brother Jack walked away from Seagram's, mainly because the distillery didn't sense a profit coming in for the team. After that, the brothers Harrison held a naming contest in the local paper because Pros is just a stupid name, with the eventual winner declared being a 15-year-old kid named Richard Paeth for his suggestion: The Rochester Royals.

The Royals hit the jackpot right off the bat. Going into their first NBL year - the 1946 season - they were led by Bob Davies, Al Cervi, and Otto Graham. Yeah, THAT Otto Graham, they guy who later played under center for those dominant Cleveland Browns (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Cl..._to_the_Dawg_Pound.html) teams of the 1950's, winning seven football titles. It was Graham's only year of professional basketball, and it was as successful as all those football teams he led later: The Royals won the 1946 title.

In 1948, the Royals jumped to the other major basketball league, the Basketball Association of America, where the NBA traces its formal roots back to. The jump took away the team's profitable schedule of exhibition games. It also, somehow, placed it in the Western Division, where they got to compete with the best team in basketball at the time, the Minneapolis Lakers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...5-Walking_on_Water.html). They were the two best teams in the league during the 1949 merger between the NBL and BAA, which formed the NBA. Royals/Lakers became a rivalry, and in 1951 the Royals overtook the Lakers and beat the New York Knicks (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...he_New_York_Groove.html) for the NBA title.

Unfortunately, the exhibition games the Royals lost upon their jump to the BAA cost them a good monetary intake, and between their small arena and Harrison's high standards for the team, the Royals started to mount debts. A larger arena and championship team didn't help, and Harrison spent a lot of the 50's looking for someone to take the Royals off his hands. The roster turned over in 1955, and instead of a greased organization which was one of the league's forces with whom all must reckon, the Royals turned into what was basically a rookie development team. Being rookies, the new players lost a lot. Even worse, they still weren't making any money, so the Harrison brothers were given an ultimatum: Move or sell. The Harrisons moved to Cincinnati. During their twelve years in Rochester, the Royals had won two titles - including their only NBA title - and used the services of nine Basketball Hall of Famers: Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Alex Hannum, Les Harrison, Red Holzman, Arnie Risen, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, and Bobby Wanzer. They also played Otto Graham, who is in the Football Hall of Fame, and Chuck Connors, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Clyde Lovellette and George King helped the Royals turn into an immediate contender in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, in the 1958 season finale, Maurice Stokes was clobbered in the head upon falling after going after a rebound. Although he shook it off, his injury was aggravated by airplane cabin pressure, and he suffered a seizure and was permanently paralyzed. The tragedy shook the team, and without Stokes, the Royals very nearly folded. Although Stokes's friend Jack Twyman became a great All-Star player over the next could of years, the team still never won more than 19 games. Twyman also did everything he could to help Stokes, even legally adopting him to help with the bills. The 1973 film Maurie told that story.

Oscar Robertson was the next big star for the Royals. They were a lot better with him, becoming a regular title contender. In 1963, they also got ahold of Jerry Lucas. From 1963 to 1966, the Royals fought hard against the Boston Celtics (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-The_Big_Green_Men.html) and Philadelphia 76ers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...25-A_True_Original.html), always putting up a hard fight but never winning anything because those teams were, you know, the Celtics and 76ers. Despite the best efforts of Lucas and Robertson, the team picked up a reputation as an also-ran during the decade because they kept failing to hold on to their best players and played in the nasty NBA East, which probably had a hand in keeping them out of the Finals. In 1966, the team was finally unloaded on a new pair of brothers, Max and Jeremy Jacobs. For the rest of their tenure in Cincinnati, the Royals were forced to alternate home arenas in other cities like Dayton and Columbus and - until the appearance of the Cavaliers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Cl...All_LeBron_s_Fault.html) in 1970 - Cleveland. When Bob Cousy was made the coach in 1969, he traded Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks, where him and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known back then as Lew Alcindor) won a title right off. The team was clearly on the decline, and the finally headed off to Kansas City in 1972.

Kansas City already had a team called the Royals, so instead of doing it like Saint Louis, the basketball Royals changed their name to the Kansas City Kings even though they had been using the name "Royals" long before the baseball Royals were even a thought. They initially divided home games between Kansas City and Omaha until 1975, and in the 80's, they even played sometimes played home games in Saint Louis. Until 1975, the team was officially called the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, and they got another new superstar in Nate Archibald and also the services of talent like Tom Van Arsdale, Jumpin' Johnny Green, and Matt Guokas. But just when it looked like the Kings were getting ready to put a run together, management screwed everything up by trading Archibald, wasting draft picks, and replacing Cousy with a coach named Phil Johnson - that's Johnson, NOT Jackson - who was fired in the middle of the year. The awful stench of losing basketball began to settle in.

In the 1980 and 1981 seasons, the Kings went 40-42 but made the playoffs anyway. In 1981, they even managed to make a run to the Western Conference Finals before they were finally exposed and subdued by the Houston Rockets. Then Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien lured away a couple of their good players with big contracts, the roof of their home arena collapsed in a severe storm (actual roof here, not a metaphorical roof), and the team re-hired Joe Axelson as their general manager. Maybe that last one doesn't sound quite so bad, but Axelson is the idiot who traded Robertson, Archibald, and Lucas and used the third pick in the ABA dispersal draft on Ron Boone. In the final Kings game ever in Kansas City, fans wore Joe Axelson masks. Axelson has the unique distinction of being the only general manager in the history of professional sports to ever fail with the same team in four different cities. He was first brought in while the team was in Cincinnati, and went through Kansas City, Omaha, and the earliest years of Sacramento before his rehiring of Phil Johnson resulted in his losing his job for good. Anyway, in 1985 the Kings completed their westward journey and moved into Sacramento.

The Kings went to the playoffs in 1986, but lost the first round to Houston. Subsequent years weren't nearly that successful. Some of the bad basketball was a result of misfortunes - promising point guard Bobby Hurley was hurt in a car crash, and Ricky Berry (NOT Rick Barry) tragically committed suicide in 1989. Some of it was bad management. Whatever the reason, the results in the standings were always the same, and the Kings weren't back in the playoffs until the 1996 season. In one year in the early 90's, the Kings won 60 percent of their home matchups but went 1-40 on the road. They also picked up Mitch Richmond, a six-time All-Star with the Kings during his Sacramento tenure. Unfortunately, his tenure only took the Kings to the playoffs that lone time, and they were knocked out of the first round by the Seattle Supersonics (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-The_Thunder_Rolls.html). Soon after that hiccup, Richmond and Otis Thorpe were traded for Chris Webber.

In 1998, the Kings pulled Jason Williams from the NBA draft and signed Vlade Divac. Those three moved, as well as the 1996 arrival of Peja Stojakovic, turned the Kings into contenders. Led by new coach Rick Adelman, the Kings adopted a new style of offense based in quick style and strong ball movement. Although they were bad on defense and Webber would ultimately become known as a career choker, people started noticing the Kings. The Kings began making regular appearances in the playoffs, but their youth proved a weakness against the Lakers and the Utah Jazz. Doug Christie was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...These_Raptors_Bite.html) in 2001, and in 2001, they became known as The Greatest Show on Court. That year, they also beat the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs, thus winning their first playoff series in 20 years. When Williams was traded the next season to the Vancouver Grizzlies (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...o_Roar_to_Speak_of.html) Mike Bibby, it resulted in the Kings having their best teams to date. In the 2002 season, the Kings led the league with 61 wins and played against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They lost the series in seven games, but it's now very frequently suggested that some of the referees involved might have been in the pockets of gamblers. The suspicions, while not confirmed, have a very strong grounding.

The Kings were chic picks until about 2005. Thanks to a series of good trades which happened to result in bad chemistry and a bunch of legal troubles, Sacramento's window closed. Frequent change and turnover have resulted in frequent struggle, and now it's looking like the Kings won't even be the Sacramento Kings for much longer. In 2011, plans to move the team to Anaheim were so well under way that the term "Anaheim Royals" was trademarked. The next year, the city approved an outline of a deal which would keep them in Sacramento, which the owners then backed out of a month later. The future of the Sacramento Kings is uncertain.

It's hard to believe anybody really takes the Kings seriously. They have no real fixed rivalries; the closest would probably be the Golden State Warriors down in Oakland. They haven't had ample time to really develop an identity. Their only real signature game or series was marred by the worst officiating in history. They only won one title, and since that title - when they were the Rochester Royals in 1951 - they haven't even won a single Conference Championship. Their name is generic, bland, and forgettable.

The Kings have fielded some very identifiable players. Chris Webber's best years were given in Sacramento. Oscar Robertson is one of the greats. But what does it say about the team that one of their retired numbers is number 21, for Vlade Divac? NBA fans probably recognize that name, but not for his play. Divac did have a solid career which included an All-Star invitation, an All-Rookie First Team appearance, and a point total of 13,398 in a standout FIBA career. His biggest claim to fame in NBA circles, however, is being the guy the Charlotte Hornets (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...hese_Hornets_Sting.html) acquired in exchange for Kobe Bryant.

The Kings have been moved from place to place even more often than the Brooklyn Nets (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Br...leep_Till_Brooklyn.html), and the Nets' moved have always been within the same metropolitan area. It's a good thing the Kings have managed to live into the internet age, because without aid from the web, no one would be able to really follow them. They've averaged maybe 25 years per home on a slow journey westward. The Atlanta Hawks have had a lot of different home cities too, but they also found their home way back in the 60's. The Kings apparently haven't.

If there's one advantage to adopting a nomadic team, it's that no one can accuse you of geographical treachery if you live in one of the Kings' various hometowns and choose not to root for the Kings. Despite some memorable stories and great moments, this old-time franchise needs to find a place to settle before I can recommend them.

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10 Ratings: +0.6
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Sacramento Kings
Conference: Western Conference
Division: Pacific Division

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