Some people live in the Northern California area and “follow basketball” don’t even know that the Sacramento Kings exist. When will it be cool to be a Kings fan again?
Depending on your age and how long you’ve been following the Sacramento Kings, you may or may not remember that the team was once one of the most popular franchises in the NBA. They were exciting, they had people talking.
They were The Greatest Show On Court, were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and were often the lead highlight on the nightly SportsCenter. Jason Williams was the most exciting young passer in the league and the team played a brand of unselfish basketball that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic jerseys began to pop up not only in Sacramento, but around the entire country. It was cool to be a Kings fan.
Things have obviously changed and deteriorated over the years. Casual fans lost interest as the team lost games, and national interest dwindled down to nearly nothing. It happened due to incompetence within the organization, including regular coaching changes, botched draft picks, and a messy ownership change that threatened relocation. In the span of a decade, the Kings went from exciting and lovable to completely forgettable.
Unfortunately, the demise of the Kings coincided with the rise of the mighty Golden State Warriors, who were just an hour and a half drive down I-80. Warriors shirts, jerseys, and memorabilia had infiltrated not only the Northern California region, but the entire country. Stephen Curry had taken over the NBA and the Warriors built a dynasty that was wildly popular worldwide.
Stores in Sacramento prominently featured Golden State garb in their displays. Malls in the heart of the city made it far easier to find Warriors gear than anything Kings related. All of the purple and black was in the back corner or even on the discount rack. The first thing you saw when you walked through the Sacramento Airport were yellow “City” jerseys.
“Who Are The Kings?”
People even forgot who the Kings existed.
Personal story: I work at a restaurant in Lake Tahoe, Nevada which has a bar with a couple of televisions. During one of the Warriors championship runs, there was a game on and I was actively rooting for whoever the other team was. A patron at bar, who seemed to be relatively educated on their Warrior knowledge, asked me how I could possibly be a fan of any team except for the local one. I enlightened them about an NBA franchise called the Sacramento Kings, whose stadium is a whole 100 miles closer to where they were sitting than Oracle Arena.
But the Kings missed a golden opportunity during the 2019-’20 season. Due mostly to injury, the Warriors went from an untouchable dynasty to the worst team in the NBA is one season. All of the people who were die hard Warrior fans for the past 5 years were no longer gracing the bar stools to catch the game game or wearing their Draymond Green jerseys to the grocery store.
The Kings were up and coming, a surprise team from the season before who were poised to build on their success and potentially make a playoff run. They had an exciting young core and were fun to watch, and were beginning to gain marginal traction in the eyes of the national media.
Things fell apart. Blame it on Luke Walton, blame is on Vlade Divac. Blame it on Marvin Bagley if you’re really that angry. But the Kings simply underachieved. They lost 15 of 18 games at one point, and no one wanted to come out and watch one of the slowest teams in the league get beat by the Knicks and Hornets.
In failing to build on their momentum from last season, they failed to build any type of new fan base or following. Those who were talked in to believing won’t get fooled again, and those who never watched before didn’t start this year.
So when will the Kings regain some Northern California relevance? It is going to take some baby steps. That first baby step will be qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half. That would give Sacramento a chance to get some national exposure, and maybe kids will be asking their parents for a De’Aaron Fox jersey to replace that old Curry one.
The resurgence is going to have to happen this upcoming season. The Warriors are going to get better when their stars return, and they have a huge lead on the Kings in popularity as it is. The Kings are a likable bunch with hard working players who have a lot of talent. They just need to put it together, and they need a national audience to see it.
For continuing Kings coverage, stay tuned to A Royal Pain