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Sacramento Kings Summary
The Sacramento Kings have a history that goes back to the 1940s, with championships and Hall of Famers among the first couple of decades of the team. Unfortunately, the last few decades have been a little less successful, with the team entering the 2021-22 season on a 15-year string of missing the playoffs.
Sacramento has a young core as it tries to reverse that trend, but that has been the case a number of times over the years with little to show for it. Change seems to be the only constant with the Kings; that and being outside of the playoff party.
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Sacramento Kings History
The current Sacramento Kings franchise was formed as the Rochester Royals in the National Basketball League in 1945, with the winning the league title in its first season. The team also made the NBL Finals the following two seasons but lost the championship series each time. The team became a part of the NBA in 1949 and won its first title in that league in 1951, defeating the New York Knicks in the Finals.
The team continued to make the playoffs nearly every season but couldn’t get to the championship round again. After a pair of non-playoff seasons, the franchise moved to Cincinnati prior to the 1957-58 campaign. Things started to turn around on the court in 1960, when the Royals selected Oscar Robertson as a territorial pick, and the player who starred at the University of Cincinnati felt right at home, winning Rookie of the Year honors.
Rochester began a six-season run of playoff appearances in 1961-62, with Jerry Lucas joining the team and earning Rookie of the Year in 1963-64. Despite the presence of the two stars, the Royals were not able to get back to the NBA Finals, then started to have trouble just making the postseason, with Robertson traded away and the team moving to Kansas City and becoming the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972.
After three seasons, the team changed to the Kansas City Kings, but the difficulty of making the postseason continued. The 1978-79 season changed things a bit, with guard Phil Ford being named Rookie of the Year and head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons earning Coach of the Year. Kansas City made the playoffs for the first of three straight appearances, and the 1980-81 team advanced as far as the Western Conference finals before falling to the Houston Rockets.
Things bottomed out for the team after that run, with the Kings making the playoffs just twice in the next 14 seasons, getting swept each time. Prior to the 1985-86 season, the franchise moved west and became the Sacramento Kings. The team’s slump continued until the 1998-99 season when then-general manager Geoff Petrie made some moves that changed the team’s fortunes for the better.
All-Star forward Chris Webber was acquired from the Washington Wizards, guard Jason Williams was selected in the draft, and free agents Vlade Divac, Jon Barry, and Vernon Maxwell were signed as free agents. The team also had forward Peja Stojakovic make his NBA debut after he was selected in the 1996 NBA Draft, and new coach Rick Adelman brought all the pieces together to get the team back to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
A pair of first-round losses was followed by a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round in 2000-01, but in the 2001 offseason, Williams was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for point guard Mike Bibby, and the team seemed on the verge of finally returning to the NBA Finals. The Kings won the Pacific Division and squared off with the Lakers again in the conference finals, falling in a wild seven-game series to the eventual champions.
It was the closest the team would get, though it followed it with consecutive conference semifinal appearances. After a pair of first-round losses the following seasons, the group that came so close was broken up.The team has had rough times since then, last making the playoffs in 2006. The biggest highlight of the last 15 seasons was a ninth-place finish in the Western Conference in 2018-19, with the team missing the postseason party by nine games in the standings.
Championships Won by the Sacramento Kings
The most successful seasons in Kings’ history came at the beginning of the franchise’s history, with league championships in both the National Basketball League and the NBA in the team’s first six years of existence. The then-Rochester Royals won the NBA title in the league’s second season of 1950-51, defeating the New York Knicks in seven games in the NBA Finals.
Sacramento has won seven division titles in its 76 years of existence, though four of those came when the team was still located in Rochester in the 1940s and 1950s. The Kings won one Midwest Division title while they were in Kansas City in 1978-79.
In Sacramento and the Pacific Division, the Kings have finished on top just twice, winning the crown in back-to-back seasons of 2001-02 and 2002-03. Unfortunately, despite the top record in the West in 2001-02, Sacramento fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
Important Team Events
The Kings have had some good draft picks over the years, but the best came in the early years of the franchise, with selections of Maurice Stokes, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry Lucas helping the team be a title contender for much of the first three decades of its existence. With the team struggling for a number of seasons, a trade of Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks occurred in 1970, and the Royals struggled for the next 10 seasons.
The 1998 offseason brought several personnel changes that turned the team around. The biggest was a trade of popular guard Mitch Richmond to the Washington Bullets for All-Star forward Chris Webber, who was not happy to be moving to the West Coast to play for a struggling team. Webber did play for the Kings, though, and very well, helping the team become a perennial title contender in his six-plus seasons with the franchise.
There is little doubt that Oscar Robertson is the greatest player to suit up for the Kings franchise. Robertson is considered one of the top guards in league history, and he had much of his success with the then-Royals. Robertson was an All-Star for all 10 seasons he was with the club and was an All-NBA first-team pick in nine of those years, with a second-team All-NBA nod in his only other season with the team. The Kings’ all-time leader in minutes, field goals, free throws, points, and triple-doubles, Robertson will always be a legend in the history of the franchise.
Center Sam Lacey spent 11-plus seasons with the Kings, with a career that spanned from two seasons in Cincinnati to Kansas City-Omaha to Kansas City. Lacey is the all-time leader in games played for the Kings, averaging a double-double of 11.1 points and 10.5 rebounds while with the team. Lacey made it to just one All-Star Game, but he’s a franchise legend.
Chris Webber was one of the top players in the NBA during his time with Sacramento, spending six-plus seasons with the Kings and averaging 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. He played in four All-Star Games while with the Kings and helped the team reach the brink of the NBA Finals in 2002.
In the modern NBA, Rick Adelman would have to be considered the top coach for the Kings franchise. The all-time leader in both regular-season and playoff victories for the team, Adelman spent eight seasons in the head coach’s seat for Sacramento, turning a perennial lottery team into a perennial title contender. Adelman’s teams lost in the conference semifinals three times and the conference finals once, making the postseason in all of his years guiding the club.
The franchise was originally founded by Les and Jack Harrison in the 1940s, and Les served as the team’s coach from 1948 to 1955, winning the only NBA championship in the team’s history. Harrison is second on the all-time list of regular-season and playoff wins for the Kings.
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Sacramento Kings FAQs
Oscar Robertson scored 22,009 points in his 10 seasons with the Kings, the most in franchise history.
The Kings have had five players win the NBA Rookie of the Year award: Maurice Stokes (1955-56), Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Jerry Lucas (1963-64), Phil Ford (1978-79), and Tyreke Evans (2009-10).
The Kings have won the NBA title once, defeating the New York Knicks in the 1951 NBA Finals.
Rick Adelman won 395 regular-season games as the coach of the Kings, the most in franchise history.
The Kings have picked No. 1 in the NBA Draft five times, taking Sihugo Green (1956), Rod Hundley (1957), Bob Boozer (1959), Oscar Robertson (1960), and Pervis Ellison (1989).