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Sacramento fans rally to keep Kings at finale

Updated: 2013-04-19 08:20
By Associated Press in Sacramento ( China Daily)

 Sacramento fans rally to keep Kings at finale

A Sacramento Kings fan holds a sign during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento on Wednesday. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Was this the end?

The chatter around Sleep Train Pavilion centered on that question on Wednesday night. With NBA owners debating whether to approve the franchise's sale and relocation to Seattle, the ever-faithful fans of the Sacramento Kings pushed the uncertainty aside and did what they have done for parts of four decades during a 112-108 loss in the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers.

They rallied.

Maybe for the last time.

Hope rang out in those trademark cowbells. Optimism showed through purple-painted faces and in the jerseys of players past and present worn throughout the announced crowd of 17,317.

Stacey Petit-Williams, 32, held a hand-made sign that read, "TAKE MY LIFE BUT NOT MY KINGS". Her husband, Kenneth Williams, 33, carried another that said, "BEST FANS IN THE NBA SINCE '85".

"The Kings are like our stepchild," said Kenneth, born and raised in Sacramento. "It's like family. We're here to cheer something we love."

Fans cheered at full throat during player introductions and often shouted "Sacramento!" Dozens more held up signs at any stoppage with phrases such as "NBA Please Don't Take Our Team" and "This is NOT goodbye". Many stuck around even after the final buzzer, chanting "here we stay", while security guards lined the court with ropes to prevent fans from storming the hardwood.

The scene was a stark contrast to the home finale two years ago, when the Maloof family which owns the Kings, was making plans to move the franchise to Anaheim, Calif. Everybody from fans to arena workers - even the team's broadcasters - shed tears on the court long after the Kings lost 116-108 in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Sacramento once again standing on the ledge of its NBA future, this season's finale felt more like a pep rally.

"It's still nervousness, but it's a lot more confidence this time," Petit-Williams said. "Our city, our mayor, our fans, we've been here before and won."

Former Kings guard Mitch Richmond sat in the first row behind the basket closest to the home team's bench. Richmond looked up at his No 2 jersey retired in the rafters just before the game, saying, "I don't even want to think about the possibility of that being taken down".

"It's time to give this team back to the fans," he said.

Brad Miller, who played for the Kings from 2003-09, sat in the Maloofs' courtside seats. He also came with his 6-year-old daughter, Aniston.

"Felt I had to be here," Miller said.

(China Daily 04/19/2013 page22)

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