If it is true – as The Sacramento Bee is reporting today – that Mike Bibby is soon to be traded to the Atlanta Hawks, the door is about to finally close on the greatest era in the 22-year history of the Sacramento Kings franchise. It was an era of great success – 8 consecutive seasons in the playoffs, several division championships – but one that will remembered most for its heartbreaking moments.
Those years – with Bibby, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, and Bobby Jackson leading the way – featured a style of basketball that was absolutely exhilarating to watch. With Divac playing the role of field marshal, the offense flowed like few others before it, and turned Sacramento into a place where other players actually wanted to play.
Of course, the high-water mark for the Kings was the 2001-02 season, when they were the best team in the league, but through a combination of poor free-throw shooting, terrible officiating, and Robert Horry, were unable to close the deal in the Western Conference championship series against the Los Angeles Lakers. It was one of the greatest series in the history of the league; 6 of the 7 games easily could have gone the other way from how they finished. My dad and I, part of a Kings season ticket group since the team’s inaugural season in Sacramento, were lucky enough to have the tickets to Game 7 of that series. Even though it was a painful loss of epic proportions, it was still an incredible experience. At the time, we thought it was just a matter of time before the Kings went all the way. As it turned out, that was their best chance, and they couldn’t pull it off.
Still, it was a great run. And now, by all appearances, it is truly over.