On Wednesday night, we were all Sacramento Kings fans. 17,000 strong gathered at Arco Arena to bid their team adieu after countless attempts to keep the franchise in Sacramento failed. They stood, they cheered, they protested and they refused to go quietly into the night. And as a Seattle fan, it was just as heart-breaking to watch as it was to see the Sonics snatched away.
Sacramento fans almost had their storybook ending, rallying from 18 down in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the waning moments. A Kobe Bryant three sent the game to overtime and the Los Angeles Lakers pulled away to squash the chance to create one last memory, but the game was a mere subplot in the story of another franchise ripped from its city.
The tale is all too familiar for Seattle fans, and one we endured just a few years ago. Efforts to save the team were met with resistance as ideas fell by the wayside, hope faded and the reality of a city without an NBA franchise set in. Losing a team may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things -- after all, the world has bigger problems -- but for many, fond memories were cultivated around professional sports franchises. Fathers take their sons to the arena, those sons grow up and take their children and it continues from generation to generation.
The next generation of Sacramento residents won't get to experience a Kings game and share the bond that's been passed down along bloodlines. The arena will go quiet, with only memories of the past left behind. The chain connecting generations through the shared experience of rooting for the home team will abruptly break.
It's the same story repeated all over again as money trumps all in the world of the NBA. If the arena isn't state-of-the-art and if owners aren't lining their coffers by way of every possible revenue stream, franchises will take their business elsewhere. There's no allegiance to a city and its fanbase, simply an allegiance to the almighty dollar.
The situations in Seattle and Sacramento are different in some ways but the same in many. And the end result leaves life-long fans and a city out in the cold as the moving trucks shuttle a franchise off to "greener pastures." The team will leave, the owners will prosper and the only losers in the situation are the city and fans left behind. In one fell swoop, decades of tradition and history can be snatched away. It's not right and it's not fair.
Wednesday night, Sacramento said goodbye. With relocation all but certain, it was one final chance for the city of Sacramento to watch its Kings, savor the memories and let their voices be heard. It was history repeating itself three years to the day after the Sonics played their final home game in Seattle.
When the game was over in Sacramento, fans gave the team one last standing ovation as a send-off before giving the ownership one last piece of their mind. Many fans stayed as long as possible, soaking in the moment and staging a sit-in to protest losing their franchise and their history. The sadness and helplessness in the faces of those in attendance made it clear they knew there was nothing they could do and this was the end. It was just as sad and disheartening to watch another city go through the same trials and tribulations as we did in Seattle while knowing exactly how the story ends.
We stand with you Sacramento and we wish you the best.