Marcos Bretón: The Sacramento Kings' playoff drought is over, and a region finally dares to believe

Marcos Bretón, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Basketball

The Sacramento Kings are back in the playoffs after 17 long, bitter, dismally interminable years of futility. It should have never taken this long.

The Kings set a new NBA record for missing the playoffs between 2006 and now, but that sorry story is finally over. The Kings clinched Wednesday by winning on the road against the Portland Trailblazers and, yes, it would have been much more dramatic if the Kings had clinched in front of home fans desperate to go bonkers at Golden 1 Center on Monday night. But the Minnesota Timberwolves had other ideas and you know what? Who cares now?

Today is for celebrating.

This city, this region, and this fan base deserve to be happy after 16 straight losing seasons, 16 straight seasons of missing the playoffs, a public fight with the previous owners, multiple threats of a Kings relocation to other cities, breathless campaigns to keep the Kings here, 13 coaching changes, an ownership change, multiple horrendous NBA drafts picks that flopped, the construction of Golden 1 Center and the demolition of the building once called Arco Arena.

All that had been missing from this saga were locusts. Every other bad thing that could have happened to this star-crossed franchise did. Sacramento has led the league in heartbreak for four presidential administrations.

All of us hoped a new day would arrive this year. We hoped for it for 17 straight years straight and now, in two weeks’ time, the NBA playoffs will finally return to the capital of California.


For those of us who covered the last Kings playoff game, a first-round series-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs on May 5, 2006, the wait has seemed longer than 17 years. For historical context, the last time the Kings were in the playoffs, the iPhone did not yet exist. The late Steve Jobs didn’t roll it out until 13 months later, on June 29, 2007. Twitter wasn’t introduced to the public until two months after the Kings were eliminated by the Spurs, on July 15, 2006.

Current Kings stars De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Keegan Murray were 8, 10 and 5 respectively the last time the Kings played a playoff game.

So much has changed since, and so has our community. The last three years in particular have been hard on Sacramento as it suffered through a pandemic, civic unrest, climate change and a downtown core still missing much of its workforce.

The hope was that a Kings move into Golden 1 Center in the fall of 2016 would mean a sudden change of fortunes for the local NBA team — but it didn’t happen suddenly or even in a timely manner. The Kings and the city that loves them have struggled together, in tandem, for years.


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