Founded all the way back in 1923 as the Rochester Seagrams, the fledgling team broke out of the gate as a powerhouse in professional basketball. Renamed the Royals in 1945, they would experience numerous cross-country relocations and name changes over the years until finally settling on Sactown as their home in 1985.
Their only NBA championship title of the last century was captured during the Finals of ’51 against the New York Knicks. Fans at the time expected a sweep, but it turned out to be a shocking seven-game showdown with a few key players at the helm.
With just 40 seconds sizzling on the clock and a deadlocked score of 75-75, Game 7 offered no room for error. Rochester was definitely performing under extreme pressure in this epic winner-take-all event. Enter the “Harrisburg Houdini” -- Bob Davies -- who put the Royals up by two with a pair of gutsy free throws, thus shattering the tie and giving New York a run for its money. With the Royals controlling the jump and running out the clock, an imposing Jack Coleman drove the victory home with a decisive layup.
The final score was 79-75, and the outcome of that historic game remains the franchise’s crowning achievement over six decades later. What’s more, the match-up gained unprecedented popularity among sports fans; it would come to position the NBA and pro basketball as front page-worthy entertainment, on level with Major League Baseball.
The Royals had relocated to Cincinnati by 1960, where they received a huge boost when the famed Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas joined the squad. They would prove to be the team’s two major players during this era.
“The Big O” Robertson earned the coveted title of NBA All-Star Game MVP in ’61 and became the only player ever to average a triple-double for an entire season; he would also develop into one of the top-scoring NBA guards of all time. Renowned rebounding forward Jerry Lucas helped Cincinnati secure one of the best records in the NBA by that season’s end and went on to win the ’64 Rookie of the Year award.
A few bright spots in the early 2000s prove that while the franchise has been down before, it is certainly not out. During 2001-02, the Kings emerged from mediocrity with new records, and they would wrestle the Pacific Division title away from their bitter rivals, the Lakers, for both that season and the next. The 2005-06 campaign marked the eighth consecutive year of postseason advancement, and in 2007-08, Sacramento ranked third in the NBA for its sparkling free-throw percentage per game.
The #SacramentoProud know how to let loose in one of the NBA’s smallest venues, the Sleep Train Arena. You’ll see some of the most passionate and loudest fans in the NBA rocking purple and black alongside their beloved lionhearted mascot, Slamson. They celebrate their modern legends in cool ways, such as the very special Sauce Castillo Night in honor of shooting guard Nik Stauskas, who adopted the moniker because a closed-captioning error misspelled his name during a live broadcast. And after the game, you’ll find many gathered downtown at restaurants like River City Brewing Company, reflecting on yesterday’s glory and looking forward to tomorrow’s victories.