All the Warriors fans wore Steph Curry jerseys and I was proudly wearing my “Light the Beam” shirt. I was prepared to be a dot of purple and black in a mix of gold and yellow inside a sea of purple.
If sports fandom isn’t passed down through the generation then it is adopted in some form or another. I fell in love with the Kings in 2001. I rode with one of the funnest basketball teams to watch through their entire season. I remember my dad and I watching Kings games together on our old Magnavox television set in the living room.
I was in my friend’s house when Robert Horry broke our hearts with his game winning three pointer in game four, setting the tone for the eventual loss in the Conference Finals. Years later I learned that the series was straight up rigged by Tim Donaghy, a referee sentenced to fifteen years in prison for tampering. This news didn’t do anything to soothe my past pain.
Like most sports teams, the Kings bounced around a number of cities before finding their current resting place. The team has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1945 as the Rochester Royals.
The Rochester Royals were one of the original teams in the National Basketball League (NBL), which merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1949 to form the NBA. The Royals were one of the most successful teams in the NBL, winning the championship in 1946, and they continued to be a strong team in the NBA.
In 1951, the Royals won their first NBA championship, defeating the New York Knicks. The team returned to the NBA Finals in 1952, but they lost to the Lakers in seven games. This one was also probably rigged, although I’m pretty sure Tim Donaghy wasn’t even born yet.
The Royals remained in Rochester until 1957 then they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became the Cincinnati Royals. The team struggled financially in Cincinnati and was never able to replicate the success they had in Rochester. However, the team did have some notable players during their time in Cincinnati, including Oscar Robertson, who played for the Royals from 1960 to 1970.
In 1972, the team moved again, this time to Kansas City, Missouri. The team split its home games between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska, and struggled to find consistent success on the court.
In 1985, the team completed their final move, this time to Sacramento. The move was controversial, as the owners of the team had made promises to the Kansas City community that they would not move the team. However, the owners cited financial difficulties and the opportunity to play in a new arena as reasons for the move.
After that magical 2001-2002 season, I swore my allegiance to the Kings for life. At that time the Kings finished with the best record in the western conference and the Golden State Warriors finished in absolute last place. I thought about how lucky I was, having the opportunity to jump on a winning team at such a young age.
I could not have foreseen the next twenty years. The next two seasons saw exits in the conference semifinals after key starters went down with injuries. The following two seasons saw early exits in the first round of the playoffs. Afterwards, the Kings embarked on one of the longest playoffs droughts in NBA history. A playoff drought that has finally been broken this season.
The new Golden 1 center in Sacramento was an incredible place to spend a Friday night. Even with a loss, the downtown area was buzzing with the kind of energy that hadn’t been felt since the early 2000s. I look forward to Kings winning the championship this year and seeing the infamous beam all the way from the Bay Area.