The Sacramento Kings filed a request for an extension with the NBA for its March 1st deadline involving teams wanting to relocate. This action by the Maloofs confirms the worst fears of every Sacramento kings fan since the owners took over the organization in 1999 — that they were going to move the team. Kings fans always thought the celebrity-driven Maloof brothers would jump at the first chance to move the team to a bigger market, and despite all of the messages, talk, and actions, Sacramento fans seem to have had their team and hearts ripped from them by two cold businessmen who tried to be one with the people.
Sacramento Kings fans were very cautious of the Maloofs because they thought the family would move the franchise to a bigger market. However, when the Maloofs took over, they promised not only to keep the team in Sacramento, but to make Sacramento an elite NBA city. That did happen for a while, and the fans forgot about their previous fear. It showed that perhaps the Maloofs really were one of us. Then the Maloofs began lobbying for the city to pay for a new arena that would make the Maloofs richer, but not necessarily make the team better. Kings fans started to worry when the Maloofs started working on their public image. The 2006 Carl’s Jr commercial where they were seen enjoying $6,000 bottles of wine with their burgers put the fear back in Kings fans’ heads.
When a new arena project didn’t come soon enough, the brothers started to lose interest in Sacramento, and their enthusiasm waned. They traded off every important piece of the Kings’ winning teams, they made horrendous coaching hires, and they stopped promoting the team to the point where you couldn’t find them at any game that wasn’t on TV. Kings fans started to get frustrated because the team wasn’t winning. There was really no evidence that anyone was even trying to make the team better. And where were the Maloofs? Oh sure, we’d see comments in the papers every now and then that the Maloofs wanted to stay, but with a crappy team, grumblings about how bad Arco Arena was, and no real ideas from the Maloofs about what they planned to do about the situation, fans had to wonder.
When the economy took a turn for the worst, the Maloofs kicked their relocation plan into high gear. People stopped coming to games because they couldn’t afford it economically or emotionally. The team was terrible and many fans decided to make a stand against the Maloofs. You could see and feel public sentiment turn against the owners they once loved unconditionally. The public voted no on the bond measure to build a new arena with 100% public funds, they cursed, slandered, and swore at the Maloofs on radio, TV, and in newspapers. Why? Because they felt like the Maloofs betrayed their trust. Sacramento has always supported the Kings, even in the horrendous days of the early ’90s, where 30 wins was a great season. There was a feeling by many that the Maloofs had just become too greedy — expecting the taxpayers to pay for a new arena for billionaires, while regular businesses were having to cut back, employees were being laid off, and people were losing their homes.
With the latest actions, the people of Sacramento feel like the Maloofs are only around until they find something better. Sacramento is the back up date to the prom. Once they find a more popular person who doesn’t have a date, we’ll be stood up. All dressed up with nowhere to go.
Once the relocation is complete, Sacramento will be the largest media market without a professional sports team. The city is too good for that, the economy needs it, and the people need it. The Maloofs have toyed with the hearts and souls of the Sacramento Kings fans. It will be a very sad day for every fan who has invested, bought a jersey, scrimped and saved to get enough money to take the family to the game, or even supported the team in the early years when the team was really bad. The Maloofs won’t shed a tear, they will be all smiles at their press conference in their new city, but the smoke you see behind them, is the burned bridges they left behind in Sacramento.
Brandon Fletcher is a Sacramento native, lifelong Kings fan, and contributor to Larry Brown Sports. You can contact him at fletcherb14 at yahoo dot comGoogle+