NBA, We Reminisce / Apr 6, 2011 / 3:00 pm

We Reminisce: Nearly Crowning The Kings

Sacramento Kings

As this season nears its end for the Sacramento Kings, leaning halfway out the door on their way to Anaheim, we need a reminder. Once upon a time, a decade or so ago, there was no fanbase more rabid, no love affair between a city and team more pronounced and no basketball more exhilarating than the Kings. Cowbells were in, and on the East Coast, it meant staying up late and getting up early for SportsCenter.

They never did win anything of substance, those Sacramento teams immediately following the second retirement of Michael Jordan. But damn, they had substance.

“Remember those NBA commercials in which they had jazz musicians discussing how basketball and music were so similar?” Zach Harper of the popular Kings blog, Cowbell Kingdom, asks. “It was like watching beautiful music on the court every night. That team definitely had its flaws, but they were as good as anybody in the league and their offense was a huge reason for that.”

He’s right. It’s easy to compare hoops to culture; normally, it’s cliché. But there’s no other way to remember a team that ran its offense through the starting center and power forward. Fake handoffs, back cuts, bounce passes, over-the-shoulder, through-the-legs, one-handed, it was a collage of nightly spectacles. Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, the two forming what is still one of the most unlikely partnerships in basketball history.

Steve Nash was given credit for redefining the offensive game in the 21st Century, bringing basketball back to its 1970s and 80s freelancing roots. He was a hoops comet, crisscrossing across the country on a barnstorming tour, showing everyone this new tango. But, he went at it solo. The Kings brought five rangers to the court, all taking turns passing, shooting, passing some more, dunking and of course dishing some more. They were the groundwork, the foundation that Nash built off. In a weird way, it was like having Nashs all over the court.

Everyone knows the story. In 1998, Webber was sent to Sacramento, outlawed to the place furthest from the center of the basketball world. He cried upon first seeing California’s capital. He had helped destroy a promising team in Washington and was now coming to a place where basketball had long before dried up. That’s where careers went to die. Webber was headed there a colossal failure, one of the most talented players ever, but considered a loser at Michigan and a problem at Golden State and Washington. It felt like the NBA had just sentenced one of its most riveting young talents to Mars. Then, the Kings added some guy from Florida. They brought in a loveable European flopper. They finally got a shooter from Serbia to come over stateside. They had talent, but no one was listening to the music. Yet. From there, they exploded in the lockout-shortened season of 1999. Two straight trips to the first round, then an appearance in the second round and finally, their date with destiny in 2001-02.

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  • JAY

    Great read. I loved this Sac team. Their free-wheeling, creative players made them a lot of fun to watch.

    I’m pretty positive the Laker fans here will rag on “The Queens” but shit…. props are due here, IMO.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Awesome piece, Sean!

  • kwan

    one of the top 3 articles i have ever read on dime

  • Flash

    Great stuff…Sacto is still my fav team in the NBA because of these guys…

  • Michorizo

    Sacramento is Warrior Land now!

  • James

    Sacramento will never be Warrior Land… I’ll miss the Kings, with them goes a lot of my childhood memories

  • Drew

    How on earth can you go an entire article about the run and gun, late nineties/early oughts Sacramento Kings and not mention Jason Williams?

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    This was one team that really made me fall in love with the NBA. Should’ve won that series over LA, stupid refs…

    @Drew – they did. He’s the guy from FL they mentioned.

  • spock

    -“that guard from florida” – that is j-will

  • MrFreezy

    God i loved that Kings team. It was truly heartbreaking to see them go down like that. That series made me hate the Lakers so much until this day…

  • bigger_dady

    its actually disgusting to know that it was the refs who determined the outcome of this series. never really liked C-Web but he was awesome for the Kings that year, along with Vlade who almost had his chance for giving a fukc you statement to the Lakers who traded him for some guy named after a steak.

  • majic

    brings me to tears losing the kings. Great write up, the memories are forever ours

  • neoy

    the Jwill/doug christie/Peja/C-web/Divac team was what got me first started to like basketball.
    the way they moved the ball, passed was just so much fun

    anyone remember when webber put the ball around Jake Voshkul’s back, got him to turn around looking for the ball., and then shot it in his face??

  • sweetv0mit

    Awesome article dude! That Sacto team was on point!

  • Cheech

    Ahh the memories. That series feels like yesterday.

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    @Drew I didn’t really want to turn this article into a recap of my obsession w/ JWill haha. So I left him out for the most part…gonna try to get to him soon though.

  • dlight

    WOW someone actually got it right- Great Article Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I think the L needs feel good stories like this to keep drawing the fringe fans and white collar $$ aka Suites sales which is why the Maloofs are moving closer to the Palms as they can get even though they will be only tenants versus landlords in Sac.

  • http://www.DarkWingPro.com DarkWing Productions

    I bought my lil sister her 1st NBA jersey cuz of this team, a purple and white Kings jersey. Even though they always choked on the big stage, they were a PROBLEM!

  • miller126

    Yeah def a fail without Jwill in the article, yeah the florida reference is there, but you gotta give the guy his props. Jwill is who put Sactown on the map, all the fancy passing and playmaking started with Williams. I remember dudes getting off the Iverson bandwagon and getting with White Chocolate, we were killing it on the Playstation back in the day. http://webpages.csus.edu/~scp43/kings%20sports%20illustrated.jpg

  • Mapletown

    I cannot lie. I’m a life-long Laker fan but Sacremento scared the shit out of me during that series. I loved and respected that team though. I was sad when they traded J-Will for Bibby but Bibby brought them stability that Jason didnt discover till he got to Memphis. Long live the Sacremento Kings.