There is a statistic that has been thrown out again and again in this fight to keep the Kings in Sacramento. In the 28 seasons the Kings have been in Sacramento, they have sold out 100-percent of their home games in 19 of those seasons.
It’s been said so many times that I believe the meaning of that stat has been lost. And it shouldn’t be lost.
When the Kings took the floor Wednesday night, 17,317 fans showed up to cheer on their team for perhaps the last time. That is the number – 17,317, the capacity of Sleep Train Arena.
Faced with enormous adversity, Kings fans showed up in masses to bring the Arco Thunder one more time.
The Kings lost the game to the playoff bound Los Angeles Clippers by the final of 112-108. DeMarcus Cousins showed everyone in the world why he is worth all of the trouble, scoring 36 points and grabbing a career-high 22 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas went toe-to-toe with Chris Paul and once again made the case that he is a starting point guard in the NBA and Marcus Thornton got hot late, dropping in 19 of his 21 points in a wild second half.
The game was exciting and fun. The Clippers put on a great show, even with Blake Griffin ailing. But this game was between a 56-win team heading to the playoffs and a 28-win team that has spent the last seven seasons searching for new lows.
So with their team heading to another draft lottery, 17,317 fans showed up to make one final statement to David Stern, Adam Silver and 29 owners across the league.
You can’t say enough about this group of loyal basketball fans.
When I left the floor at 11:30 pm; more than an hour and a half after the game had ended, there were still thousands of people in the stands. Thousands.
They were singing songs until the PA system was shut off. They were chanting “Here We Stay!”, “Sac-ra-mento!” and “Grant and Jerry!” for the team’s long time play-by-play and color analysis team of Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds.
When players trickled out onto the floor, the fans went crazy for each and every one of them, even after the lights were dimmed in the stadium, like some kindergarten class room.
They were relentless and deafening, but respectful.
This wasn’t a funeral like it was two years ago when almost everyone person in the building thought the team was relocating to Anaheim.
There were a few tears in the crowd, but this was a celebration of fandom. This night was about Sacramento Kings fans sending one last message to everyone on the outside looking in.
And that message was loud and clear.
This fanbase has laid it on the line. They have jumped through every hoop. They have shown up when all hope was lost. They went to city council meetings and stood in front of the St. Regis hotel in New York City dressed in purple, holding signs and chanting. They got in an RV and traversed the U.S. to spread the good word.
They have done everything humanly possible to keep their team and last night, they dropped the mic.
It was a celebration filled with joy and laughter. And why shouldn’t it have been?
When a final decision is made on the fate of the Kings franchise, this fanbase should hold their heads high, no matter the outcome. They left no stone unturned in their quest to remain an NBA city.
This is bigger than basketball. It is about the heart of a community. It is about an identity of a region. It is David versus Goliath.
It’s sad when a fight to save an NBA team has nothing to do with watching basketball. But that is what it has come to in Sacramento.
So a big time hat tip to an incredible fanbase. If Wednesday was the last game ever played in the city of Sacramento, you went out with pride and dignity. You made one last pitch to the NBA gods with your passion and your hearts.
If it falls on deaf ears, like it has for the last seven years with the current owners, then shame on the league. There are very few places in the world where basketball is revered like it is in Sacramento. To snuff out that torch would truly be a shame.