As the dawn of an era possibly comes to a close for the good dedicated loyal folks of Sacramento California, Basketball will forever be changed in the hearts and minds of many.
I was there to see the Kings come to Sacramento, and although I no longer reside in the city where I spent most of my youth, I will regress and say that I am sad to see them go. I was not one of the many who followed the Kings. I am not an avid sports fan. I cannot relate to those who dedicate time and money in the following of their heroes.
But I have posted here the feelings of one such loyal fan.
Please enjoy this post by David “Bondo” Biondi, Kings Fan.
As the final seconds ticked away for the final game of the season for the 2010/2011 Sacramento Kings, I stared at the Television. I had been removed from Sacramento, California for five years and now lived in Southern Oregon. I still watched as many games as I could on TV. I am a loyal Kings/NBA fan. Some say that the second before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. In this case, for me, sitting on my bed watching this emotional game against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, the past twenty-six years of being a Kings fan flashed before my eyes. This was possibly the last game The Sacramento Kings would play at Arco Arena. Sorry, Power Balance Pavilion.
My first introduction to basketball was from my two older twin brothers, Paul and Tom. It was the early 80’s. I was 8 and my brothers were both in High School. Our next-door neighbor had a hoop on top of their garage. We would climb through or jump over the bushes that divided our houses and play pick up games, HORSE or just shoot around. My brother’s favorite thing to do was to give me the ball at the top of the key and tell me to drive to the hoop. Within seconds of making my move to the hoop, long arms and a smiling face engulfed me. Every time I took a shot Paul or Tom would swat the ball away. Every time! It was then that I learned how to play offense against someone taller than me. A crucial skill for all guards playing basketball. And as I learned in life you must adapt to many situations in order to “get to the hoop.” Making the basket was a whole different story. If you know what I mean.
His junior year, my brother Tom made the Varsity basketball team. Rio Americano High School was just a few blocks away and a hang out for friends and I after school. I would watch as Tom practiced, yearning for the time when I could play on a high school team. Wear those cool uniforms and sweats. Warming up and playing in front of a packed gym. It was a goal I kept in my heart for many years. Tom’s senior year, he made the Varsity Team again and I was asked to be the ball boy. I was allowed to help out in practice, sit on the bench during the games, hand towels and water to players. Basically be a part of the team. It was incredible. I felt like I was a little closer to obtaining my goal of one day playing Varsity Basketball.
Each year Rio Americano High School would host a tournament. The Jack Scott Tournament. Schools from all around Sacramento would compete. One team in particular was Sacramento High. They were awesome. Some kids on the team could slam-dunk. They were fast, organized and really good. The best player on the team was named Kevin Johnson (now Mayor of Sacramento). He was amazing to watch. Later on he would attend The University of California Berkley and then go on to make a career playing for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA. I was so proud to see him play in the NBA. It was much like watching my Cousin Matt compete in three Olympic games. To feel that connection to someone I knew and grew up with was pretty cool when I would see them on TV. It made me want to work even harder to play Varsity Basketball.
Then one day in 1985 the Kansas City Kings picked up and left town. They moved to a little cow town named Sacramento. My town. The team played in a modified warehouse for a few years then Arco Arena was built. This NBA team that came to Sacramento was such a boost to our town. We now had a chance to go watch professional basketball teams play in our own backyard. Through the years many famous players also played against the Kings and I was able to see them live. Michael Jordan. I sat in the nose bleed seats and saw him run right out of one of his shoes. John Stockton and Karl Malone. I went to a playoff game against the Utah Jazz and saw the two future Hall of Famers do their thing. Even watching the teams that weren’t that popular was fun. Arco Arena and Kings fans brought the thunder to every single game. The crowd would soon be dubbed The 6th Man. Clanging cow bells, waving hand made signs, dressed in purple, Sacramento was on the NBA map. And later, in the mid to late 90’s, The Kings made a few runs in the Playoffs. It was amazing. Chris Weber, Vlade Divacs, Doug Christie, Jason Williams and Mike Bibby. It was a magical time filled with hope, excitement and a lot of pride.
As The Kings chances to go deep in the playoffs started to diminish as years passed, game attendance dropped. For over 10 years every single game was a sell out. Now Sacramentans were hearing rumors of the team leaving Sacramento. Talks of a new stadium would surface, and then go away. Soon the talks of the team leaving Sacramento became more and more real. And here we are today. The day after the last game of the Kings season and we, the fans, wait. Wait to see if the current owners, The Maloofs, will make the decision. 26 years after the Kansas City Kings rolled into Sacramento we wait to see if they will stay or go.
If the Kings do leave Sacramento, I feel as if a piece of me will leave with them. A piece of that 12-year-old boy who sat and watched Kings games with hope and amazement. Hope that we might win an NBA Championship. Amazement that I was blessed to live in such a wonderful city with amazing devoted fans. If you lived in Sacramento and liked basketball you ate, drank and slept basketball. And I did.
My sophomore year in high school I was cut from the Junior Varsity team. This was devastating. I had played pick up ball every day in summer, weekends, whenever I could. But I was a late bloomer and I had trouble with my left-handed lay-ups. I continued to practice for Varsity tryouts my junior year. It didn’t help. It was impossible to make Varsity if you didn’t play Junior Varsity. When I applied to colleges I took a chance and applied to the University of North Carolina. The Tar heels. They had a great Journalism program and that was the path I had chosen. I had been a fan since watching Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Pete Chillcut and many more play, I thought I had a chance. A few weeks after applying I received a letter from UNC coach Dean Smith. He wrote that he had noticed my last name (Biondi) and he asked me to fill out a questionnaire. Was this it? Was I going to UNC to play basketball? I envisioned myself walking up to the Junior Varsity Coach who cut me and shoving UNC in his face. I quickly filled out the questionnaire. Name: David Biondi. Height : 5’9”. Weight: 150 pounds (wet). Years playing basketball: my whole life. Last level of organized basketball played: Freshman year. I quickly mailed the questionnaire back to Coach Smith. A week later I receive a letter explaining that I might want to think about other options and Coach Smith thanked me for applying. I then put it all together. My Cousin Matt was known worldwide for his swimming. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall, 260 pounds and had a 7-foot wingspan. Coach Smith thought I might be just like Matt. Well, I wasn’t. At all.
When I didn’t make the Varsity squad and had my little episode with UNC my life went in another direction. I still played basketball, but it was not the same. My drive to succeed as a basketball player was deflated. I didn’t practice, but I still watched basketball on TV. As the years went on basketball was still a fixture in my life. I went to Kings games, watched College basketball and stayed a loyal basketball fan. As an adult living in Sacramento I relished in watching a Kings game, having a cold beer and standing up yelling at the visiting team. Letting them know Arco Arena was Sacramento’s house. If you win here, it would be tough.
Now, here I am. Trying to put all my thoughts into my fingertips and express what I am feeling and thinking. Feeling very sad that something I believed in and cared about for so long is no longer here. Thinking that over the years I have had so many chances to be a King. King of my own future. A Kings fan. A King now without a team. Without hope.
As I watched on TV the final game last night from Arco Arena, I mean Power Balance Pavilion, many memories and emotions ran through my head. My two boys, 11 and 8 watched me as I cheered, cried, cheered and cried. I hope that someday they understand what I have been through. My experiences with basketball living in Sacramento and even now living in Oregon. I hope they both find something to be passionate about. With these days filled with many electronic devices and many things to distract us from what is important. What is right in front of us every day. What we all search for and some find. That time to….be a King.
Thank you Sacramento and thank you Kings for everything. I will never forget. Never.