The Sacramento Kings – A History
The Sacramento Kings are a professional basketball team which is based in Sacramento, California. They play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The franchise that would become the Sacramento Kings initially played in Rochester, New York, as the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League. Success was almost immediate: founded in 1945, the team won the NBL championship in 1946. In 1948, the Royals moved to the Basketball Association of America, which absorbed the NBL the following year to become the National Basketball Association. The Royals won the NBA title in 1951, which remains the only championship in the team’s history. Top players in this era included Arnie Risen and Bob Davies, both Hall of Famers.
In 1957, the Royals moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. The team landed two top stars in Maurice Stokes and Jack Twymann. Stokes’ promising career ended tragically due to a brain injury that resulted from a fall during a game. Twyman was the first Royal to average 30 points per game for a season. Both are Hall of Famers. The team’s star players throughout the 1960s were Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Robertson met with individual success, averaging a triple-double in 1961-62 and winning the Most Valuable Player award in 1964.
Robertson was a league-leading scorer and passer each season. Lucas was Rookie Of the Year in 1964, led the league in shooting, and later averaged 20 rebounds per game over three seasons. Both were All-NBA First Team selections multiple times. The Royals were an also-ran throughout the era anyway. The team failed to keep promising players and played in the tough NBA East division, dominated by the Boston Celtics, even as a Baltimore team played in the West Division for three years, denying the team likely visits to the NBA Finals. New coach Bob Cousy, a loyal Boston Celtic, traded Lucas in 1969. Robertson was traded in 1970, and the declining team left Cincinnati shortly thereafter, moving to Kansas City, Missouri. Renamed the Kings (because of the Kansas City Royals baseball team in the same community), the team initially divided its home games between Kansas City and Omaha. The team netted a new superstar in Nate Archibald, who led the league in scoring and assists. But the Kings were no more successful in their new time zone than the Royals had been.
In the 1980-81 season, the Kings made a surprise run in the NBA Playoffs, reaching the Western Conference Finals despite finishing the season with a losing record. But this moment of success was little more than a blip.
The Kings moved west to their current home of Sacramento, California, in 1985-86. Much of their early tenure in Sacramento was spent in the NBA’s cellar, and the team made the playoffs only once between 1985 and 1995 (and even then had a losing record). Some of their failure to succeed was attributed to poor luck, such as the virtually career-ending car crash suffered by promising point guard Bobby Hurley, and some was attributed to poor management such as the too-long tenure of head coach Garry St. Jean and the selection of “Never Nervous Pervis” Ellison with the first overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft.
The early 1990s were not kind to the Kings. Sacramento was known for having strong fan support, but it never had a good team, and its owner, John Thomas, rarely paid for top talent. The Kings squeaked in to the playoffs in 1996 largely due to the effort of star player Mitch Richmond, but they did not distinguish themselves in the postseason. Eventually the team was sold to the Maloof Family, who finally changed the direction of the team.
The Kings emerged from years of mediocrity with the draft selection of Jason Williams, the signing of Vlade Divac, and the trade of Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber prior to the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. These acquisitions coincided with the arrival of Peja Stojakovic, who had been drafted in 1996. Each of these moves was attributed to general manager Geoff Petrie, who has won NBA Executive of the Year several times.
Following these acquisitions, the Kings rose in the NBA ranks, becoming a perennial playoff contender, as well as one of the most exciting teams in the NBA.  Led by new head coach Rick Adelman, and aided by former Princeton head coach and Kings assistant Pete Carril, their so-called “Princeton offense” turned heads around the league for its run-and-gun style and superb ball movement. The Kings led the league in average points per game year in and year out, and established that a team could be successful and still be fun to watch.  Some criticized the Kings for their poor team defense, Williams’s “flash over substance” style of play with its many turnovers, and Webber’s failure to step up his game in important matchups. Still, they quickly became NBA darlings, garnering many fans outside of California, and even around the world, many of which were enthralled by Williams’s amazing passing abilities and Webber’s sharp all-around game. Despite their tremendous successes, they were still a young team, and were ultimately defeated by more experienced teams in the playoffs, losing to the Utah Jazz in 1999 (in a thrilling five-game matchup), and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000.
Following the 2000 season, the Kings traded starting small forward Corliss Williamson to the Toronto Raptors for defensive shooting guard Doug Christie, opening a starting spot for sharpshooter Stojakovic. Stojakovic and his dead-eye long range shot served as the perfect complement to Webber’s smooth inside game, taking the Kings’ already-potent offense to new heights. With their continued success on court came their continued rise in popularity, culminating in their gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated in February 2001, with the title “The Greatest Show On Court”. In 2001, they won their first playoff series in the Webber era, defeating the Phoenix Suns 3-1, before being swept in four games by the Lakers, who went on to win the NBA championship.
In July 2001, Petrie traded starting point guard Jason Williams to the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies for point guard Mike Bibby. The trade solved needs on both sides: the Grizzlies, in the process of moving to Memphis, wanted an exciting, popular player to sell tickets in their new home, while the Kings, an up-and-coming team, sought more stability and control at the point guard position. Although questioned by some Kings fans at the time, NBA officials and experts proclaimed Bibby as the better (if less exciting) player in the deal, as well as a better leader, having led the Arizona Wildcats to an NCAA championship in 1997. This move was complemented by the crucial re-signing of Webber to a maximum-salary contract, securing the star power forward for years to come.
With the addition of Bibby, the Kings had their best season to date in 2001-02. The team finished with a league best 61-21 record and stormed through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Kings eventually lost to the rival Lakers in the conference finals, falling in overtime of Game 7 at home in Arco Arena. Despite questionable calls by officials during Game 6, the series is widely considered to be one of the best playoff series in NBA history.
After winning another division championship in 2002-03, the Kings lost Webber to a knee injury in the playoffs, ultimately losing to the Dallas Mavericks in a seven game series. Webber’s knee required major surgery, and his questionable mid-season return in 2003-04, in which he visibly lost much of his explosiveness and agility, led to a playoff defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves in seven games.
The 2004-05 season marked another season of dramatic change for the Kings, who lost three of their starters from the 2002 team. In the offseason of 2004, Divac opted to sign with the rival Lakers, giving Miller a starting spot at center. Early in the season, Christie was traded to the Orlando Magic for shooting guard Cuttino Mobley. But the most dramatic change came in February, when Webber was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for three relatively unheralded forwards: Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas, and Brian Skinner.
The Kings ultimately lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Seattle Supersonics. The 2005 offseason continued the team transformation, with the Kings trading fan favorite Bobby Jackson for Bonzi Wells and acquiring free agent forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
The 2005-06 season started off poorly, as the Kings had a hard time finding chemistry in the team. Popular SF Peja Stojakovic was traded for the controversial Ron Artest, who all but guaranteed the Kings would make the playoffs. Artest’s prediction came true, as the Kings returned to their winning ways, earning an 8-seed before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2006 playoffs, 4 games to 2.
The 2006 offseason was started with the announcement that head coach Rick Adelman’s contract would not be renewed. On June 2, 2006, the Kings named Eric Musselman as Adelman’s replacement as head coach.