Sacramento Kings fans showed up in full force as their team defeated the Utah Jazz 120-109 for what was dubbed, “Here We Buy” night, by local grassroot campaigns attempting to keep the team in Sacramento.
Kings head coach Keith Smart knew the atmosphere would be overwhelming before he even made it into the arena.
“To come in this building today and see the fans and the level of appreciation while they were out in the parking lot, that was a huge key for us as myself and everyone else coming into the arena, driving in here ready for a game, saw the fans in the parking lot first,” Smart said.
Fans kicked the night off with a planned tailgate in the parking lot prior to the game where fans of all ages joined the festivities while showing off their love for the Kings with jerseys, homemade shirts and signs while the familiar noise of cowbells filled the air.
A group of young boys from Sacramento set up a table with a sign saying, “Kids-4-Kings,” featuring lemonade for the fans attending the tailgate, while accepting donations to help keep the Kings in Sacramento.
“We are trying to raise money to save the Kings and the lemonade that we are selling is free but we accept anything because anything helps to save the Kings,” said Gil, Jack and Wyatt, ages 11, 10 and 7, respectively.
Those weren’t the only donations made for Here We Buy night. In an effort to fill Sleep Train Arena, fans that were unable to attend the game were able to donate money that would go towards buying tickets for other fans. In association with the Here We Stay group, former Sacramento King Donte Greene’s Circle of Success Foundation, 3Fold Communications and the Center for Fathers and Families helped give out over 600 tickets to local families and children.
While they did not succeed with creating a sellout, they certainly succeeded in creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the “Arco Thunder” of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kings fans remained loud and into the game from the very start to the very end with their cowbells and coordinated chants.
The 16,193 fans bellowed chants of “SAC-RA-MEN-TO,” “Let us match” and “Here we stay” through the air anytime the Utah Jazz were at the free throw line. Fans topped it off by creating “the wave” that circled around the arena numerous times and even had the Kings bench participating.
“I’ve never had a chance to do the wave, so I made sure I included myself in that,” Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins said following the game. “It was an incredible experience. I got a little fatigued there at the end. I didn’t expect it to last that long, but it kinda did but I stuck through it.”
The Sacramento region quickly banded together after word got out that the team was being sold to a group with the intentions of moving the team to Seattle. With the sale announced and the Seattle group’s application for relocation already filed with the league office, Sacramento must hope for the league to not approve the sale or the relocation. A majority vote out of the remaining 29 NBA team owners is needed to approve the sale, whereas three-fourths is needed for relocation.
The team’s fans recognize that other aspects of this region will be impacted as well, should the team be cleared to relocate.
“It would be horrible. I mean, you’re talking a few hundred to a thousand full-time, permanent jobs gone, then you’ve got all the neighboring businesses, small businesses that will probably suffer greatly from not having the team be here in Natomas,” said 29-year-old Brandon Sanchez of Sacramento. “And then on a bigger scale, the Kings are our global identifier. You hear stories about people in China and Germany, people going overseas and being Kings fans. It’s Sacramento.“
Since the announcement of the sale, fans and team advocates have been doing what they can to show NBA Commissioner David Stern the team belongs in Sacramento, while mayor Kevin Johnson assembles his own group of potential buyers. One thing is clear: Sacramento and the region won’t back down as long as the deal is not finalized.
“I think it’s great, it just shows that almost anything is possible,” said 28-year-old Andrew Zaragoza who comes from Woodland to attend Kings games. “We haven’t quite finished the deal yet but I just feel like when the rest of the country says that no matter what we do doesn’t matter, we still don’t care. We’re still going to do it.”
The support and efforts to show NBA Commissioner Stern that the team belongs in Sacramento have been staggering, and Saturday night was further evidence for this region’s case.
“I think it says that we’re never going to stop fighting,” Sanchez said of Kings fans coming together to keep their team. “We are known for boxing, Tony Lopez and people like that, Urijah Faber. We’re never going to give up, it’s in our nature.
Photos by George Young