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Friday, September 24, 2021

Column: Still the Kings

The NBA has a history of favoring “large market” teams such as Los Angeles and Boston. As a business model, this makes sense. The larger the market, the higher the likelihood of selling more seats and making more money.

But in an era where “small market” teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers have had tremendous recent success, it seems as if these “small market” teams have validated their positions in the NBA.

The NBA almost lost another up-and-coming “small market” team in the Sacramento Kings. A group of Seattle investors, led by Chris Hansen, approached the Sacramento Kings’ majority owners, the Maloof brothers, to purchase the Kings and relocate the team to Seattle.

As most of you probably know, the NBA wisely stopped this plan. A move to Seattle would have caused lasting ramifications to not only Sacramento but the Kings’ organization as well.

The Maloof brothers sold their shares to billionaire Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive has no desire of moving the Kings from Sacramento, and in fact, is trying to build a new arena for the Kings to play in.

A move to Seattle would be a catastrophic disaster. Take the Oklahoma City Thunder, formerly the Seattle Supersonics, who left Seattle for the smaller-market city after the 2007-08 season. The Thunder has attained great success and hasn’t looked back.

Why did Seattle fail while Oklahoma City prevailed? Easy. Seattle, being the metropolis that it is, has an abundance of other options for entertainment, which breeds casual fans.

The result is a disinterest in mediocre basketball. I realize that this occurs everywhere. After all, no person wants to support a losing team. However, in a smaller market, like Oklahoma City or Sacramento, there tend to be more serious and dedicated followers of teams regardless of their records.

For example, though Sacramento has been near the bottom of attendance ratings in the past few years, the hardcore fans still consistently attend games in high percentages.

The question is not if the Sacramento market is large enough to sustain a professional basketball team, but how the Kings can attract the average fan. The answer is winning.

Winning draws the average sports fan to events. The Golden State Warriors for years have been a team with intense fans and a mediocre basketball team. When the Warriors finally got things clicking this year, the average sports fans attended more games and the overall revenue for the team increased.

The Warriors are a perfect model for the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have the atmosphere and the dedicated fans coming to games nightly. They simply need to win some games to attract the rest.

I believe that the Kings have the talent to succeed and play winning basketball. With players like DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, the team is missing only a few pieces and is most likely a coaching change away from playoff basketball.

Clearly, the Sacramento community can offer the Kings much more than a city like Seattle. The dedicated fans are a resource that the NBA almost squandered, and once the team starts winning, it can become a feel-good story NBA should be proud of.

KENNETH LING can be given Kings home game e-tickets at sports@theaggie.org.

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