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The franchise that is the Sacramento Kings today dates back to the Rochester Seagrams and the 1920s, one of the longest legacies in the current NBA. Les Harrison, an area prep star, became affiliated with the semi-pro team with the liquor distillery sponsor in 1924. Raised in running a business by his father and passionate about basketball, Harrison took the team to new heights regionally. In the early 1940s, they were clashing with the best pro teams in America and had become a local treasure in Rochester. Moving to a 4000-seat facility then, the team was renamed the Pros. Harrison's team was invited to join the NBL in 1945. Renamed the Royals, Rochester won the NBL title in their first try, 1945-46. The next two years, the outstanding team, which featured Hall Of Famers Bob Davies, Red Holzman, Otto Graham, Chuck Connors, Al Cervi, Arnie Risen and Bobby Wanzer, had the best record in basketball, but lost to George Mikan teams in the Finals. In 1948-49, the Royals joined Minneapolis, Fort Wayne and a Indianapolis team in jumping to the BAA, the direct forerunner to the NBA. The Royals had the best record and team again, but again fell to Mikan. The Lakers-Royals rivalry was the best in the sport, but Mikan beat them again the following year. In 1951-52, the Royals finally got it done, beating the Lakers and New York to win the NBA title. With a small arena and a spoiled fan base, the Royals lost money the next seven straight years anyway. Outspent by most every NBA team, the Royals still finished no lower than second place in the NBA West 1949-1954. Harrison, also a Hall Of Famer, was a remarkable manager and scout. The first major pro basketball owner to use black players, Harrison was called " The Branch Rickey Of Basketball ".
The team started rebuilding in 1955 around Pittsburgh-area stars Maurice Stokes, Ed Fleming, Jack Twyman and Dick Ricketts. Wanzer was now player/coach of a team that started four rookies, 1955-56. In 1957, the team moved to Cincinnati and 13,000 seat Cincinnati Gardens. Clyde Lovelette, George King, Richie Regan and Tom Marshall joined the kids and the team contended before declining due to injuries, 1957-58. Star guard Sihugo Green was lost to military service.
Disaster struck when star forward Maurice Stokes, one of the greatest pure basketball talents ever, was lost to career-ending head injury in 1958. Stokes condition was greatly escalated by a plane flight which Harrison refused to land until Cincinnati. Stokes was hospitalized for his remaining years until he passed away until 1970. Shaken players simply left the team and the league. No NBA team has ever encountered a similar level of tragedy.
The 1958-59 team had six new players, including five rookies to make the youngest and most inexperienced roster in NBA history. New ownership and coach also showed further the remarkable effect the Stokes tragedy had had. The team somehow avaoided folding due to the stellar play of Jack Twyman and the forthcoming territorial drft picks of Oscar Robertson and local star Jerry Lucas. Robertson, Bob Boozer and Adrian Smith joined the team in 1960 and the team improved over three years to become a title contender by the 1962-63 season. Robertson was a new, rare 6'5 player on Stokes level of talent, only a much better shot as well. The Royals had the vaunted Boston Celtics on the ropes in their second-round series. But a management dispute had booked a circus for Cincinnati Gardens that week. The Royals had to move their home games against Boston to a Xavier University fieldhouse. As a result, they lost that series 4-3. The team was also derided for being unable to sign draft picks on time or at all during this key period. Jerry Lucas was signed to the ABL 1962-63, but joined the team the following year. With Lucas, the Royals surged to second-best record in the NBA, 1963-64. Robertson, one of the three towering greats of the decade along with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, was named 1964 NBA MVP. Lucas was named 1964 NBA Rookie Of The Year, giving the team a rare double-honor. Stuck in the NBA East with Baltimore in the NBA West, the Royals nonetheless contended strongly the next two years, just falling short in 1966. By then, Bucky Bockhorn, Twyman and Wayne Embry had all retired. The team slowly declined. Robertson and Lucas were both First Team All-NBA 1965,1966,1968. Rarely have two players from the same NBA team been rated so high by the league. Cincinnati college coaching legend Ed Jucker coached the team 1967-69.
Joe Axelson and Bob Cousy arrived with new ownership in 1970. Robertson and Lucas were traded for nearly nothing and the team sank to the bottom of the league. No longer a fan draw, and with local competition from new Cleveland, plus Kentucky and Indiana of the ABA, the team moved to Kansas City.
Nate Archibald and Sam Lacey were the stars by now, but the team remained an also ran in their new home. Archibald, just six feet tall, led the NBA in both scoring and assists in 1974, playing 47 minutes per game for the year. The star guard left the team in 1977. In 1979, Cotton Fitzsimmons, perhaps the franchise's best ever coach, had Scott Wedman and Phil Ford to help Lacey. The Kansas City Kings contended 1982-84, then declined again.
In 1986, the Kings were sold and moved to Sacramento, California. Sacramento was a city starved for major league sports and cheered the mediocre club thru seven straight years in which they failed to win 30 NBA games. The laughingstock of the league, the Kings nonetheless were a ticket selling success in their new home. By the late 1990s, Rick Adelman, a former Kansas City King, was the coach. He began infusing foreign stars with draftees like Jason Williams. Chris Webber was acquired, and the team took off for success not seen since Rochester. With Webber leading the way, the Kings posted five straight 50-win seasons, including 61 wins 2001-2002. Only a series loss to Los Angeles prevented a NBA title.
In recent years, the team has again declined to losing also-ran, but made some noise near the end of the 2007-08 regular season that they may again return to the playoffs someday soon.
1963-64 Oscar Robertson ( one that should have been: Chris Webber, 2001–02 )
Rookie of the Year
1955-56 Maurice Stokes 1960-61 Oscar Robertson 1963-64 Jerry Lucas
Record Per Season
All Time Records
Single Season Records
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