Dayton: What it means that the Kings are staying in Sacramento

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At around 7 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night, I became whole again.

The author (right) with Kings play-by-play man Grant Napear in Philadelphia. He thought it was the last time he'd be able to see his team in person.

The author (right) with Kings play-by-play man Grant Napear in Philadelphia. He thought it was the last time he would be able to see his team in person.

I found out that the Sacramento Kings, my favorite NBA team is, this time, for sure, going to exist next season.

I found out that the squad I’ve been rooting for since I was 12 years old is staying right where it belongs, and that I can look forward to the NBA draft, and next season, and getting NBA League Pass again.

I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

What does it feel like to realize that your favorite team is going to be around for a while, that you won’t have to be an NBA nomad, with no real rooting interest anywhere?

Put it this way:

The Kings were horrible this season, but it feels like they just won a playoff series. I’m pouring champagne all over myself as we speak. In fact, I just plastic-wrapped my keyboard.

The Vlade Divac jersey I’ve been wearing for the past few weeks in semi-protest (almost like a Che Guevara shirt on a college campus) is now just another awesome old-school jersey. The look of forlorn empathy I’ve seen on people’s faces when I tell them I’m a Kings fan will now only show up when I tell them I still live with my parents.

To sum it all up: This is the exact opposite of the 2002 Western Conference finals.

Maybe it’s karma (although that’s a tough sell to Seattle fans), or maybe it’s just Kevin Johnson. But this time around, the Kings actually came out on top with everything on the line. In May 2002, I collapsed to the floor in devastation when the Kings “lost” to the Lakers.

Today, I couldn’t have been happier if Amanda Pflugrad showed up at my house.

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson worked tirelessly to keep the Kings.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson worked tirelessly to keep the Kings.

This was a fight Sacramento deserved to win. The Kings have some of the most passionate fans in the NBA, and thanks to the Herculean efforts of Johnson, the mayor and a former All-Star point guard, they have a group of investors willing to spend an ungodly amount of money on the team, and a plan for a new arena that was passed, 7-2, by the City Council.

The fact that this whole thing became a bidding war was unfortunate and wrong, because Sacramento never wavered on whether or not it wanted to keep the Kings. Fans still showed up in droves. Politicians fought tooth and nail for the right to use public money on a new arena.

Kings fans sold out the home finale. They cheered on their team that night as if it were the NBA Finals. A guy named Carmichael Dave even put together a bus tour and traveled the country to spread the word about the passion his city had for the Kings.

This was never about Seattle. The people up there deserve a team, and I sincerely hope that they get one soon.

No, this was about Sacramento, and in truth, the only reason the Kings were even in the position to be relocated was because of the vindictive Maloof family, which backed out on an arena deal they had agreed to last year. Then they sold the franchise to Seattle businessman Chris Hansen in stealth. The Maloofs were hellbent on screwing over Sacramento, hoping to pull the moving fans away in the middle of the night like the Baltimore Colts.

Thankfully, it didn’t work.

It feels pretty great to know that the collective efforts of a fan base and a city can be enough to stop an inept ownership group.

It feels even better that I’m going to have a team to root for next season, and in the seasons to come.

Long live the Sacramento Kings.

Long live my team.

Kels Dayton is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in SLAM Magazine. You can check out more of his work at RoundballDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter @RoundballDaily.

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