If NBA fans across the world wanted the full immersive experience of being a Sacramento Kings fan, they couldn't have picked a better night. Perhaps most outsiders were initially concerned as to whether the Los Angeles Lakers would win in Sacramento, clinching the West's No. 2 spot in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But if Twitter was any indication, as the Kings stormed back from a 20-point third quarter deficit to take a late lead, the viewing experience for neutral fans across the nation and globe became all about giving Sacramento one sweet victory.
This sweet victory was particularly important to grab, given that on Thursday the Maloofs, who own the Kings, will make their case to the NBA Board of Governors that the team belongs in Anaheim, not Sacramento. NBA owners rarely object to the requests of their brethren, and since All-Star Weekend, relocation has looked inevitable. The death of the Sacramento Kings had become a foregone conclusion.
So this win would have meant something real, a final triumph for good. A karmic payback. A storybook ending to an era. But if you know the Sacramento Kings like we do 'round here, you know that's way, way too easy.
The Kings had a three-point lead with 10 seconds left. Kobe Bryant, of course, hit a three-pointer to knot it up with five seconds left. The Kings, of course, spazzed out on their own final possession and in overtime. Lakers win. It's a familiar, crushing refrain. Lakers win.
The NBA fans who bought into the Sacramento Kings' story for one almost glorious night got a taste of exactly what Sacramento Kings fans have dealt with for 26 years: a peek at glory blocked by those [expletives] in yellow and purple. Any ol' team can lose, but lose in crushing fashion? That's Sacramento. That's the Kings. They find hope in improbable places, stretch it to its elastic limit and watch it snap. Over and over again.
But there's another ingredient in Wednesday's game that makes it the proper Sacramento Kings experience for the uninitiated. It's the loyalty the fans showed.
From Yahoo!'s Marc J. Spears:
About a quarter of the sold-out crowd of 17,841 stayed at Power Balance Pavilions for about an hour after the final buzzer to voice their displeasure over the Kings’ possible – and say goodbye. There were tears, hugs, chants of "SAC-RA-MENTO" and "Here We Stay!" Seven Kings players and coach Paul Westphal shook hands with the fans and addressed the adoring crowd.
It was truly something to behold. As Westphal gave his post-game press conference -- in tears -- the Kings' broadcast showed the chanting, weeping fans manning their stations, showing the NBA what loyalty is all about. There was no quit in the Kings of the court, not ever, not now. And the fans fueled that, always and now. Those who tuned in for one amazing night got to witness the same ol' Kings who end up with the crushing L, sure. But they also witnessed the incredible fan loyalty that made Sacramento famous, that made the loss of Sacramento as an NBA market something worth regretting.
You wanted the full Sacramento Kings fan experience for a special night? You've got it. Broken hearts, swollen hearts -- all of it.