Earlier this year, a sports business site called Sportico estimated the Kings’ total value at $1.84 billion. That amount covers everything, from the team and its sponsorship deals to real estate.
As someone who has followed the Kings and laughed along with their failure since the early 1980s, I thought of two questions: If I owned the team, would now be the right time to sell? And might some Kings owners wonder the same thing?
Freshwater fishermen know the best time to catch a sturgeon in the Sacramento River is right about now, early March, when white sturgeon run upstream to spawn. The big fish search for rocky substrate in the river bottom. They love fast-moving, cold water clouded by dirt.
I’m no fisherman. But I hope to wake up one morning and open an email from a Sacramento angler who, in the hunt for sturgeon, has sighted an awesome beast that defies belief, an ancient sturgeon of supreme size and weight whose emergence from the muddy depths can resemble a submarine breaking the surface.
I’m talking about Old Moe.
An Inside reader named Ken Poppers serves as today’s example of someone with a good memory. I’ll play the role of the old sportswriter who needs a reminder.
Poppers emailed me recently and noted my disdain for the Kings and their avoidance of certain fiscal responsibilities in the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit, the Kings cut staff. They also stopped paying all the rent they owe the city for Golden 1 Center.
For sports fans who pray 2021 is the year athletes shut up, a reality check: It won’t happen. Athletes have always talked, even before anyone cared what they had to say. They aren’t going to stop speaking their minds anytime soon.
Jack Johnson, who in 1908 became the first Black fighter to win the world heavyweight championship, was never at a loss for words. But his most enduring quote from his “Fight of the Century” in Reno against ardent white supremacist and former champ Jim Jeffries was eloquently simple: “May the best man win.” Johnson beat the bigot in 15 rounds.
Sometimes I wish Inside Sacramento had an award called “Local Sports Person of the Year.” I know the guy I would nominate for 2020: Dusty Baker. He’s at the top of his game at age 71. And while the year was miserable and Baker did his best work in Houston rather than Sacramento, he will always belong to the city he calls home. He’s a paragon of leadership, integrity, pride, hard work and perseverance. He’s also pretty good at baseball.
As 2020 began, Baker was unemployed in Sacramento, his career finished. It was a bittersweet end. Baker has been involved in professional baseball since 1967, when he was a senior at Del Campo High School and drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
The big problem with the Kings isn’t their history of failure, their dumb trades, mystifying draft choices, chronic mismanagement, clueless owners or inability to hire and retain people with the brains and talent to compete in the NBA.
The big problem is their potential to drag the city of Sacramento toward bankruptcy.
Can the Kings hurt the city’s fiscal stability? For decades, that’s been a mostly abstract question. Now the threat is real. The city’s vulnerability began 23 years ago, grew slowly and gained speed in 2015. Today, in an economy convulsed by pandemic, warning signs flash red.