It has become a bit of a foregone conclusion that the Sacramento Kings will be relocated to Anaheim before the next NBA season. The Maloof family, who has owned the Kings since 1999, has yet to file for relocation, but the NBA this week granted the franchise an extension on its application to move. The Maloofs will meet with other owners on April 14-15 as the regular season ends, and the Kings' decision will be made by April 18.
You know what the other 28 NBA franchise owners should tell the Maloofs? No. No, you're not moving to Anaheim. While I'm obviously a Sacramento-bred Kings fan with a whole grip of emotion tied up in this ordeal, I believe the following 19 points are logical and fact-based enough to get the point across without tears and pleading.
1. Sacramento has sold out every game in 17 of 26 seasons. The Kings have sold out all 41 home games in 17 of their 26 seasons in the Sacramento. Think about that: The gym was packed in every game for an entire season 17 out of the 26 years the team has been in town. (All of this comes despite a .438 winning percentage since the Kings moved to Sacramento.)
2. Sacramento has two of the five longest sellout streaks in NBA history. Can you imagine the NBA abandoning a devoted market like Portland or Chicago? Sacramento is right there in terms of fan loyalty, with two of the longest sellout streaks in league history, one of which came over 11 seasons, during which the Kings made the playoffs twice and never won a postseason series.
3. Sacramento would become the largest U.S. market without a major pro sports team. Sacramento is the No. 20 U.S. media market. All 19 metropolitan areas ahead of it have at least one, usually 3-4, major pro sports team. If the NBA abandons Sacramento, it will be leaving a gaping sports void, the type the NBA itself usually likes to fill. (The next two largest media markets with a major pro sports team? Hartford-New Haven and Asheville-Greenville.)
4. Sacramento finally has a mayor who understands how important the Kings and the NBA are to the city. Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-NBA point guard who grew up in Sacramento, is in the process of developing the first proposal for a new arena plan he's been allowed to since taking office. When Johnson came into office, the NBA was pursuing a lofty and, many felt, completely bat guano insane plan that needed the approval of a state board. It didn't work, and the NBA abandoned the efforts. Johnson took over, and for the first time in the last decade Sacramento has a leader with the connections and foresight to get something done.
5. Sacramento has never been closer to a new arena. Johnson brought in one of Sacramento's most trusted developers in David Taylor, and brought in ICON, who has helped build several NBA arenas. The group has until early May to develop a feasibility study and funding plan for a downtown arena. The NBA owes it to Sacramento to hear the plan out.
6. The Honda Center is 18 years old. By leaving the 23-year-old Power Balance Pavilion for the 18-year-old Honda Center, the Kings would be kicking the can down the road. Orange County voters will almost certainly never approve public funding for a new NBA and NHL arena, and it could be a decade before a new facility in Anaheim could be built with private money, or when Honda Center could be renovated (at the costs of millions and millions of dollars, given California regulations).
7. Anaheim is not a proven NBA market. When the NBA moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City, OKC was already proven to be a legitimate NBA market, thanks to the city's brief hosting of the Hornets after Hurricane Katrina. Anaheim has no such history of grassroots support for the NBA. Sacramento has shown to be basketball-crazy. It's not in the NBA's interests to abandon proven markets for unproven ones.
8. Los Angeles is saturated with entertainment and sports options. In Sacramento, the Kings are the big draw. In Los Angeles, there are two NBA teams, a college program (UCLA) that treats itself like an NBA team, a football program (USC) that treats itself like an NFL team when it's not on probation, two NHL teams, two MLB teams, an NFL team an hour away, another MLB team an hour away, beaches, Disneyland, Charlie Sheen, the sun, Korean BBQ and so, so much more. Sacramento has the Kings and a railroad museum. (Obviously, I'm exaggerating a little. Sacramento has a lot to offer, but nothing but the NBA to offer sports fans. No major college programs. Not even an MLS team.)
9. Increased television revenue will not help other NBA teams. Under the current financial structure of the NBA, teams keep their own local T.V. money. Reports suggest the Maloofs are planning to move to Anaheim largely to soak up the Lakers' ending deal with FoxSports for a regional sports network. So the Maloofs' revenue stream from local T.V. will certainly increase, and on the surface, that's better for the league. Except not a single other NBA owner will see a dime of that money.
10. Kings' subservient relationship to NHL in Anaheim is not a good look. Henry Samueli, the owner of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, owns the Honda Center and would control the Maloofs' lease on the property as well as all future renovations. In terms of power in Anaheim, the NBA would be behind the NHL. That's not desirable from a P.R. outlook or in business, period.
11. Building generations of future fans is accomplished through the live game. Sacramento has a proven track record of great attendance when the team isn't completely awful. Young fans become engaged and addicted to the NBA game through the live experience -- the amazing players and plays, the spectacle of it all. An Anaheim team will be T.V.-driven -- the Ducks are in the bottom 10 in attendance in the NHL -- and the Kings would always be competing with the glamorous Lakers and Blake Griffin-led Clippers for the live dollar. Moving to Anaheim is a complete short-term bid.
12. Sacramento has a built-in and eternal customer base: government officials and lobbyists. A great portion of Sacramento's workforce is devoted to the public sector. So while Sacramento lacks big corporations, it has the State of California as a major employer. Lobbyists love to take high-powered politicians out to see sporting events, and the Kings would remain the only game in town in Sacramento. Maybe it's not right, but it's the truth.
13. Not all avenues in Sacramento have been explored. If the NBA is going to abandon a wonderful market like Sacramento, all avenues should be explored and exhausted. That clearly has not happened. There has been one ballot measure -- a measure that failed primarily because the Maloofs withdrew support for it during the campaign -- and there was one (huge and completely unrealistic) proposal by the NBA itself. That's basically it. The Maloofs disengaged from the new arena process three years ago. It's not impossible in Sacramento. It's not.
14. Markets can't be burned and returned. I think Charlotte's lack of gate success proves to us that leaving a market and replacing it with a new team a few years later isn't going to work. The idea that the Kings could leave, Johnson could get a new facility built and the NBA could swoop back into Sacramento? That's not going to work. When the NBA leaves Sacramento, it will have burned the market for decades. Charlotte proves that.
15. Sacramento fans have not been given a fair shake. Sure, attendance has been bad the last few years. But the Kings have had a bottom-3 record for three seasons running, are in their fifth season without the playoffs, have lacked a marketable star, and Sacramento has suffered the worst unemployment and foreclosure rates in the nation. The team is going to leave because a population of diehard Kings fans can't afford to attend games right now? Again, it's short-sighted. It's selling low.
16. When the Kings dropped prices, fans flocked back. Despite minimal on-court improvement, Sacramento's attendance has risen the past two seasons. Why? Because the Maloofs realized their tickets were vastly overpriced and started offering seats more in line with demand. Things got so bad because the franchise hadn't realized it couldn't charge top-10 ticket prices for a bottom-3 team.
17. A move doesn't help spread the game. David Stern has made myriad efforts to spread the game beyond the major American cities -- into the breadbasket of America, across the world. Moving a team from Sacramento to the L.A. area is the exact opposite of that. Southern California is already on board with basketball. Moving another team there does nothing to help spread the NBA far and wide.
18. Small and mid-markets will suffer from another large-market bully. Franchise owners in small and mid-markets should fear another L.A. team. The Maloofs are not cheap like Donald Sterling, despite what the Kings' payroll has looked like lately. They will spend and spend and spend, just like Jerry Buss and James Dolan and Mark Cuban. That will drive up player salaries and making the cost of winning that much higher. You want a teammate in the fight for revenue sharing? Don't let the Kings move to Anaheim.
19. The P.R. damage will be wonderful and vicious. Seattle lashed out against the Sonics' move in Seattle fashion: with incredible intelligence and, frankly, class. There were rallies, a great documentary and lawsuits. In Sacramento, full of grandstanding politicians, the birthplace of the Deftones? There will be anger. Anger at the Maloofs, anger at Stern, anger at the NBA brand. Jerseys will be burned left and right, and the virus of hatred will be spread to Oakland, where Warriors-Kings game will turn into the American equivalent of Greek soccer matches. Trust me. Sacramento will not go down with class and dignity.
The owners, again, meet April 14-15. The Maloofs will ask for advice, and some assurance that their relocation application would be met with approval. For the reasons stated above, I ask that the owners tell them to GTFO.