May 16, 2012, 11:47 AM EST
I called it ‘watching your own funeral,’ but instead of a eulogy there was Fan Appreciation Night. Instead of a pall-bearer, there stood Kobe Bryant.
You could’ve written the story of Sacramento’s fight to keep their team with a scalpel, but in this open-heart surgery there would be no anesthetic. The Lakers were in town, and with virtually every report pointing toward the imminent relocation of the team to Anaheim, there was only one more game to go for creaky, old Arco Arena (now metaphorically named after a company that can’t pay its bills).
For their part, the Lakers provided no quarter as they prepped for the postseason, jumping out to a 20-point lead at one point before halftime. Cutting through the anxious silence of one of the NBA’s loudest crowds – the sweet sounds of advertising – as the Maloofs continued to pitch based on the premise that they were staying.
By the time they honored lifelong season ticket holders at halftime, for their commitment to the team no less, I wandered to the gift shop to look for Anaheim Royals jerseys.
By the time the third quarter had started, Joe and Gavin Maloof left their courtside seats early and were replaced by Lakers fans. Adrienne Maloof’s reality TV cameras paced the sidelines so The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills could monetize the tears. Lakers fans could smell the desperation in the air and stopped giving Kings fans the business.
I began to wonder if the prisoner wanted to say a word.
But true to form, neither the team nor its fans were ready to quit. David roared back to force a Goliath overtime, and as life imitated art, Kings fans roared as thousands stayed and refused to leave their seats for over an hour after the game.
They chanted “Here we stay.”
Unlike SonicsGate, another must-watch documentary for any NBA fan, this flick isn’t an expose. This is the uplifting tale of Sacramento’s effort to keep their team, an effort that David Stern called “extraordinary.”
It is called, “Small Market, Big Heart” and it’s focused on what the last couple of years have been like for Kings fans.
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