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Kings fans sellout home opener despite team’s uncertain future

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Fans of the Sacramento Kings remained loyal to their team and sold out the “blackout” home opener victory Monday night despite the growing uncertainty that has surrounded the franchise in recent years.

The energetic home crowd helped the Kings defeat the Golden State Warriors 94-92 in the final seconds for their first victory of the season after going 0-3 on their season-opening road trip.

Optimism still remains amongst the team and its fans even after their rough beginning to the season.

“I would like to see them make the playoffs, it would be a long shot but I would like to see them be close to .500, I’d be happy with that,” said Rob Horton, a Kings fan of 25 years. “That would at least be a progression in the right direction, you can’t build a team overnight. They’ve got some studs on this team. DeMarcus Cousins is a superstar in the making.”

Since the arena deal between the Kings and the city of Sacramento fell through this summer, there has been much speculation about where the team will be located next. Among the possibilities that have been raised: moving to Anaheim next season, heading to Virginia Beach, and filling the void in Seattle left when the Seattle SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City to become the Thunder.

Many fans have grown frustrated with Kings ownership due to the lack of certainty over whether the team will remain in Sacramento, but so far, they have kept their frustration aimed at ownership.

“[We’re] not frustrated towards the team itself, but towards the owners, yeah,” said Vicki Burrell, whose family has been attending Kings games for the last 12 years from Applegate. “I guess we’re just not as confident or as sure that they really want to be here as much as we want them to be here.”

Even though the Maloofs have not announced anything concerning their intentions officially, many fans believe that this will be the team’s final season as the Sacramento Kings.

“Knowing that this is going to be the last year here, I’m not a fool, I’m not an idiot,” Horton said. “This arena is so old. I know they’re going to leave, this arena is too old. They had a downtown arena where they didn’t have to pay jack and they said it was a bad deal, that’s because they didn’t have any money.”

Kings fans made it evident that even if the Maloofs’ decisions have influenced their feelings towards the team, they will not give up on their team as they packed Sleep Train Arena with 17,317 fans.

“It does change my feelings but I’ve been a die-hard Kings fan since ’85 so I’m going to stick with them until the end,” said Jaime Juarez, a 36-year-old fan from Sacramento.

Fans attending the game were energetic as they showed up in forces to support their team. The Kings organization put on a special introduction in honor of the blackout during which the lights were turned off and fans stood on their feet, waving around glow-in-the-dark thunder sticks, and cheering as the team was introduced.

Throughout the game, fans filled the Sleep Train Arena with noise reminiscent of the “Arco Thunder” that was prevalent in the early 2000’s, when the arena was named Arco Arena.

Whether it was a made basket, a blown call from the refs, a big dunk, or a turnover from the Warriors, fans made their thoughts known with their voices. They even got a chance to let their wants known when, for the fourth time, a tarp fell from the scoreboard onto the court, stopping play. Fans began chanting “New Arena” as the ref dragged the tarp off the court.

The Warriors orchestrated a late-game comeback that got the Golden State fans into the game, but their efforts were quickly drowned out by the emphatic Kings fans who countered with a “Sac-ra-men-to” chant.

Though fans say they will continue to support the team while they remain in Sacramento, many are hesitant to support the same Kings team should they relocate to another city.

“I don’t like what the ownership has done but I do want to support the team,” said Dennis Johnson, a fan since 1986 and season ticket holder for 22 years. “When the Monarchs relocated, I didn’t follow them anymore and they all split up, so I doubt that I would follow them that much.”

While it remains to be seen how long it will last, the Kings players appreciate the continued support with the uncertainty that has gone on.

“To be honest with you, 0-3, I was surprised to see everybody there,” said backup Kings point guard Aaron Brooks. “We’ve been going through a lot the last couple years, and to see everybody still sticking with us even though we were 0-3 coming back home, it was cool.”

 

Photography by Ron Nabity Photography

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