The year was 1999, and the NBA had just restarted after a dispute between the players union and the NBA caused the season to almost be canceled. When the NBA got back to business as usual, nobody gave the young Sacramento Kings a chance, despite acquiring Chris Webber from the then Washington Bullets, and drafting a young point guard by the name of Jason Williams.
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The young Kings that nobody gave a chance to wound up going 27-23, their first winning record since moving to the capital city in 1985, and Williams, who was berated for his supposed “flash over substance” style of play, was a member of the All-Rookie First Team, and Webber, who everybody thought was dumped on the Kings because the Bullets didn’t want him, was named to the All-NBA Second Team.
But the biggest accomplishment lies in with team, as the team made the playoffs for just the second time in their existence in Sacramento. Their opponent in the first round? The mighty Utah Jazz, the defending Western Conference champs.
After looking like the defending conference champs in Game One, demolishing Sacramento by 20 points, the young Kings took it to the experienced Jazz in Game Two, winning by 11. That set the scene for the Game 3 back in ARCO Arena, and the building was electric, and it carried the Kings to a 84-81 overtime win, and a 2-1 series lead.
Back in those days, the first round was only a best-of-5 series, and with a tremendous home crowd behind them, it looked like the young Kings would put away the old-guard Jazz. But this was the point where experience trumped youth, as the Jazz won a thriller in Game 4, and took a 99-92 overtime decision in the fifth and deciding game in Utah.
This series was significant, because this series marked the birth of the “Greatest Show on Earth” chapter in the Kings history, the most successful chapter this team has ever had.
Although the Kings would go on to greater heights in the coming years, the 1999 NBA Playoffs were the coming out party of one of the most exciting teams in the league for years to come.