Seattleites have spent the better part of two decades as America’s premier bellyachers. Whether it was the grunge music movement, the officiating in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss to the Steelers or the SuperSonics’ departure to Oklahoma City, moaning is their specialty.
But sometimes all that griping turns out for the best. Those grunge dudes made pretty good dough. Seahawks fans now have the promise of multiple great seasons with Russell Wilson at quarterback. And it appears basketball is coming back to the Emerald City.
ESPN.com reported on Sunday that the Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings, have agreed to sell the franchise to a Seattle group headlined by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and fellow rich guy Chris Hansen, who is not to be confused with the MSNBC pedophile trapper of the same name. (Maybe the Maloofs can claim they thought the team would stay in Sacramento but realized they were duped when they showed up for the transaction and saw Hansen sitting in the kitchen with a camera crew).
The price tag on the sale is $225 million, which caught the eye of LeBron James. In a rare moment of bluntness, the NBA’s top player and most image-conscious guy tweeted “So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain’t making no money huh? What the hell we have a (lockout) for. Get the hell out of here.”
It appears the Kings will get the hell out of Sacramento, at any rate. It’s only the latest step for the most vagabond franchise in the history of North American sports.
The team began life in the National Basketball League in 1945 as the Rochester Royals, then became one of three NBL teams to merge with the Basketball Association of America to form the NBA in 1948. (The Lakers and Pistons were the others).
The Royals made their first move in 1957, heading to Cincinnati. That lasted until 1972, when they moved to Kansas City and became the Kings. The Kings also played home games in Omaha for the first three seasons of that arrangement, going by the clumsy official moniker “Kansas City-Omaha Kings.”
In 1985, Sacramento became the fifth city the franchise called home.
Most of the Sacramento years were dreadful, with the jerseys providing the lone highlight. That changed with the acquisition of Chris Webber in 1998. The Kings suddenly turned into one of the best teams of the immediate post-Jordan era. Sacramento’s high point and low point came in the same season — the Kings finished a league-best 61-21 in 2001-02, but ended up getting hosed by Tim Donaghy’s officiating crew and lost the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers in seven games.
Well, the low point up until now, anyway. The Kings have plunged to such depths that they are forced to play in something called “Sleep Train Arena” and only make the news when DeMarcus Cousins does something stupid — which is to say they make the news frequently.
The new ownership group is expected to move the team to Seattle next year, where it will play two seasons at previously abandoned Key Arena before heading to a brand-new facility.
It would appear that the move to Seattle will end up closing the history books on one of the NBA’s charter franchises. Just as Cleveland did when the Browns moved to Baltimore, the City of Seattle retained the SuperSonics name, colors and history for when the NBA returned to the city. (That is a bit of irony in itself — the SuperSonics were named because of Boeing, which has since moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago).
That ends up being the great irony of this whole thing — Seattle, which cried bloody murder when the team moved to OKC, is now stealing someone else’s team AND killing that franchise’s history, an unprecedented two-fer.
Barring the greatest sporting miracle since the 1980 Winter Olympics, the team’s lone championship came in Rochester in 1951.
Other footnotes to Royals/Kings history:
Games Played: Sam Lacey, 888
Points: Oscar Roberston, 22,009
Points Per Game: Oscar Robertson, 29.3
Rebounds: Sam Lacey, 9,353
Rebounds Per Game: Jerry Lucas, 19.1
Assists: Oscar Robertson, 7,731
Assists Per Game: Oscar Robertson, 10.3
Steals: Sam Lacey, 950
Steals Per Game: Ron Artest, 2.2
Field Goal Percentage: Steve Johnson, .604
Three-Pointers Made: Peja Stojakovic, 1,070
Wins: Rick Adelman, 395 (1999-2006)
Losses: Phil Johnson, 306 (1974-87)
Best Regular Season: 61-21 (2001-02)
Worst Regular Season: 17-65 (2008-09)