A hero’s welcome for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson this afternoon. The point-guard-turned-politician returned home from Dallas today following yesterday’s landmark decision by the NBA to block the relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.
Greeted by approximately three dozen Kings fans and a throng of media at Sacramento International Airport, the mayor reiterated that the ownership group led by Vivek Ranadivé continues to work around the clock to finalize a purchase of the Kings from the Maloof family. Though Kings co-owner George Maloof yesterday expressed some loyalty to his family’s dealings with Chris Hansen and the Seattle group, the mayor appeared confident that a sale to Ranadivé was imminent.
“This deal is done,” Johnson said after exiting the service tram on the third floor of Sac International’s new Terminal B. “It’s gonna be close to be signed in the next day or two. It’s very clear from the commissioner.”
Last year, the Maloofs backed out of a deal to build a new arena in Downtown Sacramento, which shocked fans and left Johnson’s camp stunned. Despite the startling twist last spring, the mayor does not foresee the current process turning sideways this time around.
“I’ll be surprised if we get past the weekend,” Johnson said of his expectations of the negotiations between Ranadivé and the Maloofs. “I said yesterday, it’ll get done in the next day or two. I feel very confident about that. And once that is done and finalized, it’s something that’s going to change this city forever and I’m really proud of this community.”
Sacramento was essentially left for dead when news broke that the Maloofs finalized a sale of the franchise to a wealthy group of investors in Seattle. But over the last five months, the capital city community, led by Johnson, rallied to approve a new arena plan and assemble an ownership team with the wherewithal to invest in Sacramento.
Johnson smiled when asked if this come-from-behind effort has forever cemented his legacy both professionally and personally.
“It’s funny, I was thinking that in 1993 – I was in the NBA Finals,” the mayor said. “That’s 20 years ago and we came up short against the Chicago Bulls. And if we pull this off, which I think we have a great chance of doing, it might make up for coming up a little bit short.
“Saving the team and being part of a group that fought to keep the team here in Sacramento – that’s a big deal for all of us.”