As the Sacramento Kings continue to roll through the NBA playoffs, let us reflect on a phenomenon that occurred over five years ago: The emergence of the Kings fan.
As a young chap I made trips from the East Bay along 680 to ARCO Arena. The tickets were always free for my family because we always knew a season ticket holder that just didn’t want to go.
I endured the aroma of cow pies as I waited in the rain to watch the Kings lose by 50 points night in and night out. I survived the chastising of my elementary school classmates, who were bewildered when I would explain to them that the NBA was in Sacramento. And Reggie Theus’ comments that “Sacramento ain’t California” remained carved in my mind.
Yet through it all, I supported the Kings.
On May 15, 1998, a rumble could be heard from the capital. A pulse was finally heard from deep within Cow Country, jump-started by a trade for the temperamentally volatile but physically gifted Chris Webber. But getting Webber to come to the armpit of California required pulling more than just an arm and a leg. The Queens added college vagabond Jason Williams, and perhaps the world’s ugliest man in Vlade Divac, to complete a lineup that could finally match up against the NBA’s elite. And like a bolt of lightning, the phenomenon began in Northern California.
Suddenly Kings jerseys flocked everywhere, and the previous chickens who sported the purple and black now dawned the name “fans.” White America found inspiration in the white kid who could ball, myself included. And consequently, those tickets that were once so easy to get were tougher to snag then front row seats for the Stones.
But you have to wonder: Where did these fans matriculate from? Even my Davis girlfriend decided it was en vogue to flaunt the purple of her new life and soul. This was the same girlfriend that a year before rebuffed every attempt at me watching Mitch Richmond shoot 25 percent from the field in favor of “Dawson’s Creek.” Could it be that success made people jump on the bandwagon? No, couldn’t be – that’s a SoCal thing to do, right?
It’s a fond tradition for Northern Californians to gripe about Los Angeles and their fair-weather fans, as we watch the Lakers and that Mickey Mouse team in Anaheim take home championships. Dare I say that we are just as fair-weather as our superficial neighbors to the south?