Mar 7, 2012, 3:07 AM EDT
I interviewed Carmichael Dave, the person most synonymous with Sacramento’s grassroots effort to keep their basketball team, way back on April 5, 2011. The Kings were all-but gone by most accounts, and I asked Dave what he thought the Kings’ chances of leaving were.
It turns out that he might have been a bit optimistic, as there wasn’t a soul on record, including mayor Kevin Johnson, that thought the Maloofs would keep their team in the Cowbell Kingdom.
And during the Kings’ final game last year, when the Lakers were up by 20 points in the first half and the team was honoring its lifelong season ticket holders with the future not just in doubt, but in the trash – I thought to myself, ‘This is what it’s like to watch your own funeral.’
Even the Lakers fans that had gathered that night stopped giving Kings fans the business. They knew when enough was enough. 2,000 or more people stayed after the game, refusing to leave the arena. Players, coaches, media, management, and anybody affiliated with the team all stayed back to take in the scene. Grown men, including then coach Paul Westphal and TV commentators Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds – they cried. They weren’t the only ones.
In the background, people were working, though. Some of those people had great influence and some of them had simple tweets. Together, and with no one part being able to complete its work without the other, they were able to keep their team and by virtue of that – give their region hope for a better day.
Tonight, the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve the term sheet drawn up by all of the stakeholders of the $387-400 million Entertainment and Sports Complex. The wheels could theoretically spin off, but there are 5-of-9 votes in the council that are rock solid in favor of the arena. The other four votes range from serious opposition to only mild opposition, as evidenced by two of them crossing the line tonight. In addition, tonight’s vote will put the project in real motion, with more money being spent as the city finalizes the parking portion of its contribution.
And aside from all of that, sources from each side of the table indicate that they are a full go and the Kings are staying in Sacramento.
It was a moving scene, having interviewed many of the fans, stakeholders, city leaders, and the like for over a year. These people spent hundreds of hours not just to protect a basketball team, but to keep their region from going under. The Sacramento area, having relied on the public sector for decades, has been beset by 12 percent unemployment and big-name companies are leaving weekly.
Or maybe the word is ‘were.’
Kevin Johnson, the hero in all of this, was able to raise an additional $10 million in sponsorships before the plane hit the ground for last year’s NBA Board of Governors meeting. With some help from Jerry Buss and Donald Sterling, Johnson was able to convince David Stern and the NBA that Sacramento could be a viable place for an NBA team – and that most importantly that he could deliver on an arena.
He formed a coalition that included business leaders, fans, churches, various ethnic groups, and heavy hitters from the political world that had a vested interest in keeping Sacramento afloat.
He floated the name, ‘Burkle.’
And I don’t know when Johnson whipped the city council to determine whether or not he had their votes, but he knew that if he kept the ball moving that good things would happen.
When the motion to approve the term sheet was made last night, 500-1000 arena supporters packed two floors of the new city hall and one floor of the old, adjacent city hall. The opposition had its chance to speak first and 19 of the two million people in the Sacramento region spoke out against the arena deal. In the interests of time K.J. limited public comment in support of the arena to 45 minutes. When that time ended, he asked those that didn’t get a chance to speak to stand up.
Nearly everybody in each room stood up.
After public comment, as each councilperson spoke it became clear where each of them stood. When two opposition votes from the last motion moved over to the pro-arena side it was clear that the Kings were going to stay. A full year’s worth of anxiety and effort started to settle, and with one more moment to go – the room looked tired and worn out. Sensing that it was time to vote, though, they sprang into action and started waving their signs.
The payoff was near.
The roll call vote meant that each councilmember would have to say their vote out loud, and when it was Johnson’s turn to give the final vote he screamed ‘YES’ into the microphone.
It was somewhat anticlimactic since we knew the results weeks ago, but it was his Braveheart moment. And Carmichael Dave had a Braveheart moment when he stood on a 12-foot ladder and told 2,000-plus fans that they had to leave the arena but not to give up hope. And each of those fans that organized en masse, made documentaries, and wouldn’t give up – they had their Braveheart moments, too.
That’s the best part about this story, aside from the happy ending. Faced with a less than 10 percent chance of success these people banded together, did something, and might have staved off long-term erosion of their economy.
And if the Kings can play some winning basketball, that will be a close second.
Apr 16, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
NBA could still rescind the technical
Apr 16, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT
How many years feature three of the best records in a franchise’s history?
Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Bulls give Greg Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amnundson and Mike James multi-year contracts
Apr 16, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Nothing like waiting until the last minute to figure things out.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Nine combined spots on the ballot go to eight different players, and none of our winners made the other two’s top three
Apr 16, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Chris Paul and J.J. Redick look good as Clippers ready for playoffs.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:40 AM EDT
Poor Evan Fournier is on the wrong end of a highlight that’s going to get shown a lot for a few days. At least.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:46 PM EDT
Video of one player executing a crossover that drops another player to the floor — you know you’re watching.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT
Sick pass, monster slam.
Joe Johnson says he shouldn’t have been laughing on bench during blowout loss to Knicks earlier in season
Apr 15, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
Joe Johnson says Jeff Van Gundy’s criticism of his behavior was spot-on.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
Mike D’Antoni had no idea how beating the Jazz on Monday would negatively impact his team’s Draft Lottery chances. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT
Anthony is out for the rest of the season but will not be surgery and will be good to go next season.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
Just 7-8 minutes before, Cedric Maxwell had stood next to one of the people killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, but he decided to go inside and get warm.
Apr 15, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
With nothing on line Pacers going to rest key guys… except Hibbert.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
It’s not something you could ever prove (and the Nets may not even do it), but they could rest guys in hopes of falling into a first-round matchup with Toronto.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Damian Lillard doesn’t want to end up like all those players without rings. The ones sitting in his living room.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Two general managers make all three ballots, one tops each
Apr 15, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Award honors ‘outstanding service and dedication to the community’
Apr 15, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
It was just a fender bender, the good news is nobody got hurt. However, Chandler Parsons was delayed getting to the Toyota Center for the Rockets game Monday when he got into an accident. And then the other driver found out who he was and… I will let Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tell…
Apr 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
And Burke is one of the best rookies in this class….
- Playoff Chase: Seven meaningful games on final night of NBA season 6
- 2014 PBT Awards: Most Improved Player 7
- Tuesday NBA grades: Chris Paul looks playoff ready 0
- Carmelo Anthony has torn labrum, Knicks shut him down for season 14
- Celtics’ legend Cedric Maxwell stood in location of Boston Marathon bombing just minutes before 3