Tomorrow, Saturday the 9th, is the most crucial must-win game in the Sacramento era of Kings basketball. Now halfway through a season in which our team is nowhere near a playoff spot, we’ve endured constant team turmoil, head-scratching rotation inconsistencies and embarrassing blowouts. All of which make this weekend’s game against the Utah Jazz the biggest must-win game to never be decided on the court.
In the realm of basketball, I would have no business trying to convince you to buy tickets to a Kings game exactly a week after the performance we saw last Saturday night in Madison Square Garden by a team that looked tired, disinterested and apathetic.
In the realm of things bigger than basketball, I implore you to attend the biggest must-win game, to date, for Sacramento. Not for the Sacramento Kings, but for the city the Kings call home.
Although some national pundits would have you believe that the city the Kings call home is ambiguous at this point, most of us in Sacramento have a clear vision of how this story will play out.
We have visions of a revitalized city, a rejuvenated team, an electrified fan base and a restored downtown. However, in order to allow those visions to transpire, we have to win on Saturday night. We have to show up. We have to prove to David Stern and the Board of Governors that Sacramento will always show up for our team, regardless of circumstance.
Our small city, with its lone professional sports team and relentless grassroots efforts is the advantage that we have over every other NBA city.
Imagine this sort of grassroots effort happening in New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, where everyone has his own agenda. The reason you can’t imagine it is because it would never happen. We have an opportunity here, tomorrow night, to write our own history, for the very reasons we’ve been written off up until now.
Our perceived impracticability as a small market in a small city with a down economy and too many blue-collar folks to ever have the firepower to produce a continuously successful NBA franchise become our advantage tomorrow night. By filling every single one of those 17,317 worn, broken, mismatched seats in Sleep Train Arena, we prove the viability of a market and fan base that loves its team so unfailingly, that even when the night is darkest, even when those all-knowing pundits tell us it’s a lost cause, even when our team has one foot out the door, we show up. And people will have no choice but to notice.
I don’t know about you, but for years now I’ve been craving that Arco Thunder of the old days. The days when the only live basketball I knew involved deafening cheering, incessant cowbells and fluorescent purple throughout the stands. Tomorrow night begins the resurgence of that brand of basketball, that level of excitement and that electrified atmosphere. But we MUST show up.
If you’re of the belief that the Kings are 100% gone and you don’t want to pay to see an underachieving product on the court, then show up to ensure better days ahead under new ownership. If you feel the tides changing and believe that we have a chance to keep our team, then show up to invest in a future where we’re talking about selling out Game 5s instead of meaningless games in February.
Local businesses have stepped up huge with millions pledged in advertisements, local investors have stepped up huge with $25 million contributed toward new ownership, fans have stepped up huge with nearly $23 million committed in season ticket sales under new ownership. Everyone has done his or her part up to now. But tomorrow is when we prove that our actions speak louder than words. Prior commitments mean nothing if we have no team because we failed to do NOW what we wish we had done then, as the moving trucks roll away.
Now is no time for pride, for worrying about looking stupid to those who say it’s over, for worrying about lining pockets or for agonizing over a painful season. Now is for ensuring we aren’t sorry later, for realizing the fierce urgency of the moment, for refusing to be paralyzed by procrastination and for preempting the words “too late”.
But mostly, now is for taking your grandkids to a Sacramento Kings game in 20 years, because you showed up.