Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Sacramento Kings deserved to be champions

The real class of the NBA never won a title. They were destined to be champions, but somehow that chance was lost time-after-time again. Why did a team with so much class deserve to be treated with little respect? Sacramento Kings worked as a team. There was no "I" in their games. The Kings had everything working. They were close to dethroning the Evil Empire.

Chris, Peja, Vlade, Doug, Mike, Bobby, Hedo, and compay deserved the title. They fought through getting swept in the 2001 NBA Playoffs - the year before they made a run at the Lakers in 2002. A year later, the Kings breezed through the Jazz and the Mavericks, en-route to facing the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. In the series, the Kings were missing their 3pt specialist Peja, who had been injured in the Dallas series. Hedo filled in for Peja nicely.

I could remember the shot that was coined an "Horry-ble" finish for the Kings. The Kings had a lead from start to almost finishing the Lakers off in the each of the games. Game 4 was a heartbreak loss.

Game 6 was the start of something even worse. No matter what the Kings did, they couldn't be rewarded for their effort. Shaq had one lousy foul. Vlade and Pollard fouled out of the game. Lawrence was the third string covering a legend. What could the Kings do against their nemesis? They deserved to win this game, on the very night they would make it to NBA Finals. I watched the game from the Jumbo Screen at a Giants game. Everybody was focused on what was going on with the game. The Kings had the game all wrapped up.

All-of-a-sudden, Kobe decided to pop Bibby in the noise with an elbow. Bibby got the foul for trying to cover Kobe. After only a dozen trips to the line, the Lakers went on to shoot almost triple that amount in the 4th quarter alone. It was tragic. What was going on in this game? I couldn't believe the officiating. The San Jose Mercury News noted Game 6 as one that was lost because Kobe, Shaq, and the 3 referees were unstoppable.

The Kings lost their hopes to make it to the NBA Finals. They still had home-court advantage. A Game 7 to fix the Game 4 and Game 6 meltdown.

Game 7 was one of the most frustrating moments in sports. The Kings found a way to extend the lead to 11 points in the third. They were playing Kings basketball, sharing the ball, and just full of energy. What went wrong? Somehow, the Lakers made an improbable comeback.

We thought it was the Kings moment to shine in the spotlight. They worked so hard for this moment. Hardship-after-hardship, the Kings deserved to make it to the NBA Finals. They were a classy group of players that had millions of fans riding on their train.

The Lakers took the lead in the 4th quarter. They went up by 2 in closing stages of the game. The Lakers raced up the court to extend the lead, but a foul was called on Kobe. Bibby shot two of the most important free throws in Sacramento franchise history. He made both of them. Arco was loud! Kings could taste a victory. After Shaq missed a dunk, the game went into overtime.

In overtime, Webber hammered a thunderous dunk. The Kings were up 102-100. Thing started to fall apart. Hedo got trapped in the corner, near the half court line. Two Lakers swarmed Hedo, stripping him of the ball, and scored on the possession.

Peja rushed a wide open 3 point shot. He air-balled it! Dam! Things were looking grim. The Lakers stole the show, and took the hearts of the Kings Nation with them. They had no class. Shaq ridiculed the Kings, calling them the Sacramento Queens. The Kings squandered many opportunities to avoid Game 7, but left it all on the court, almost dethroning the Lakers in the process.

The Lakers never deserved to win the title. They were back-to-back champions, but in 2002, the Kings had the title within plain sight, but couldn't deliver. They let 3 games go, each of them they should have won.

The Kings were doomed again in the following year when Webber blew his knee out during a blowout loss. He should have never been playing, as the Mavericks were putting on a shooting clinic, embarrassing the Kings a game after enjoyed a blowout win.

The Kings were far better than the Mavs in 2003. They were waiting for a second chance to take on the Lakers. That never happened, as Webber's injury was too steep of an obstacle to overcome. Moreover, the Spurs dethroned the defending champions Lakers in 6 games.

The next season, the 2003-2004 Kings were off to a fast start. They looked far better than the rest of the NBA. When Webber finally came back from micro-fracture knee surgery, the Kings struggled to insert him back into the lineup.

After a close series with Dallas in the 2004 NBA Playoffs, the Kings faced the Western Conference's Number #1 seed Minnesota Timberwolves. The Kings were so close from going up 2-0, but fell apart. After being up 10 points with 4:01 left in the game, the T-Wolves went on 1 16-1 run to win the game.

The Kings returned home with the series tied at 1-1. In Game 3, the T-Wolves pounded away, taking a huge lead into the last few minutes of the game. With Peja and Bibby pushing hard, the Kings made a comeback. They rained rained three-pointers like they were going out of style.

After taking a narrow lead, Peja missed a critical free throw, which ended his free throw shooting streak. He managed to miss a free throw that would have won the game in regulation.

Going into OT, the Kings had their chances to squeeze out a win, but with a Bibby technical because of throwing off his headband, and Peja missing two critical free throws, the Kings lost Game 3 by 1 point.

In Game 7, the were down by 10 at half-time. The Kings didn't seem to have the fire that helped them win by 17 points in Game 6 at Arco Arean. Game 7 looked to be over, but Christie hit a 3 pointer with 13 seconds left, pulling the Kings within 1 point.

Cassell immediately fouled, making two free throws. He put the T-Wolves up by 3. Christie tried to shoot a 3, but missed the game tying shot. Miller squabbled for the loose ball, grabbed the rebound, and then flicked over a pass to a hungry Webber.

C-Webb jumped up, shot the ball from the 3 point line. The ball rolled around, and then rimmed out of the hoop. Webber dropped to his knees, leaving his heart on the floor - knowing the Kings wasted a prime opportunity to have another rematch with the Lakers.

The Kings never had a better shot ti win an NBA Title. The 2002-2004 Kings had all the weapons to get to the next level. They came so close to bringing a title to Sacramento. The Kings were a classy group of players that deserved to win a title.

One NBA title would have made this city happy. Instead, the Lakers won 3 titles, and then added another in 2009. The team that deserved a title never got one. The Kings have been unable to make the playoffs the past 3 years. This past season, they managed to win only 17 games - a franchise low.

The rivalry that made basketball fun to watch is now gone. Will the Kings ever have another shot to be a contender? Only time will tell. All the Kings players have moved on.

The Kings had a chance to duplicate the same success in 2007, but they decided to break the team apart and fire the coach.

All we can do is remember the good times. I used to listen to Kings games on the radio, watch them, and check out the stats on the Internet. I enjoyed watching the Kings. I will always remember how exciting the Kings used to be. They were the most electrifying team in the NBA.

The Kings earned the respect of fans, and the NBA. Only the Lakers were too arrogant to show some class. No matter what the record books read, the Kings will always be champions of the 2002 NBA season. May the Kings have another opportunity to win a title.

Read the article below about Webber, and What if?

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