Monday, April 4, 2011

Kingdom Crumbles

The very first NBA game I attended was in 1978.  I was an intern at KMBC and armed with a Scoopic (that's a silent 16mm film camera) I went to shoot highlights of the Kansas City Kings playing the Philadelphia 76er's.  I was excited because because Philadelphia featured the incredible Darrell Dawkins, Chocolate Thunder.  He was one of the first high school players to go straight to the pros.

I don't remember much about the game.  I remember seeing Dawkins and being awestruck.  What a physical specimen.  Anyway, I wasn't much of an NBA fan to begin with, so I rarely ventured to the Kemper to check out the hometown team.

Pretty soon it became apparent that many Kansas Citians shared my apathy for the Kings.  They were a fair to middlin' team.  I remember Sam Lacey, Scott Wedman, and Otis Birdsong, but the team was rarely in the playoffs and suddenly along came an indoor soccer team that somehow created a lot more buzz. 

Meanwhile by 1984 the Kings had new owners who through their teeth about keeping the Kings in Kansas City.  The general response I recall from the community was apathy.  Sure, there was anger that we had been hoodwinked in a sense, but Kansas City had the Royals who were still winning back then, the Chiefs, who weren't, and an exciting indoor soccer team.  My God how the Leikewe Brother's knew how to market a product.

Amazingly the Kansas City Comets consistently outdrew the Kings and by 1985 NBA basketball abandoned Kemper Arena.  I've tried hard to remember the coverage we gave the saga while I worked at WDAF.  I remember sports director Frank Boal doing a standup from Sacramento from a vast plain explaining that a warehouse planned for the area could be quickly converted to an arena.  But it was a story that didn't generate a ton of buzz.

Now 26 years later and I'm here in Sacramento watching a similar drama play out.  The owners fought long and hard for a new arena.  I have not been to Arco, sorry, the Power Balance Pavillion, but I've heard it's a dump.  I have no plan to catch one of the three remaining Kings games before their presumptive move to Anaheim.  I chuckle because the team will likely take the nickname Royals if they move there.  Hello?!?

It's a different story in Sacramento.  The newspaper, TV and radio stations are knocking themselves out covering the Kings departure.  It's the city's only major league team.  We have a mayor who was an NBA all-star.  How could this happen?

Sacramento has only itself to blame for the predicament.  I don't blame the taxpayers for cutting their nose off despite their face.  They didn't want to pony up for a new arena.  I blame city leaders who a half dozen years ago failed to articulate what really was at stake.

In two weeks the NBA will make its decision about whether the team will move.  It seems like a sure bet they'll be in Anaheim next season.  But two weeks ago who would have guessed that UConn would beat Butler to win the NCAA hoops title?

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