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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Of Kings and Wizards

It's been a while since I've attended an NBA game...a long while. So long, in fact, that I can't quite remember when, though if I had to place a more exact time frame on it, I'd say it must've been during Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. I recall going to the game at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, CA with my friend Steve Nash and his dad, and seeing the bald patch on Abdul-Jabbar's head as he ran up and down up the court. In any event, that was a long time ago.

Will my daughter's recollection of her first professional basketball game be any clearer than her old man's? Time will tell, but she definitely had a good time last night (Monday), as the three of us (Mom included) rode the Metro to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. to see the host Washington Wizards take on the visiting Sacramento Kings. It was hardly a marquee match-up (both teams are in the second division), but it was most certainly an exciting affair, with 11 lead changes and 16 ties before the Kings' Isaiah Thomas made the winning shot with one second remaining to give Sacramento the victory, 96-94. You can read a write-up on the game here, and watch some video highlights on the NBA's website here. It was a contest definitely worth seeing, even at the risk of aggravating an already troublesome cold.

Did I go home feeling like a winner? You betcha! Having attended high school and college in the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, it was the Kings I was rooting for, and the game took on an added poignancy with the knowledge that this is most likely the team's last season in Sacramento - they're in the process of being sold to a group of buyers from Seattle, who will move the team to the Pacific Northwest and change the name to the SuperSonics. Sacramento has never been much of a major-league sports town - other than the Kings, the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs played at ARCO Arena from 1997-2009, and the Oakland Athletics' Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats ply their trade at Raley Field in West Sacramento. For most of the 28 years the Kings have played in Sacramento, they've been a terrible team, but the fans always came out to cheer them on - I never got a chance to see them when I was still living in the area due to the difficulty of acquiring game tickets. The glory days of the Chris Webber era, 1998-2005, when the Kings won their division a couple of times and came so close to beating the Lakers and going on to the NBA finals (curse you, Robert Horry!) happened while I was in East Asia. But while the supporting fan base has always been there, the Maloof family ownership hasn't, backing out of a couple of arena deals at the last minute and frustrating Sacramento Mayor (and former NBA player) Kevin Johnson's heroic efforts to keep the team in town.

So it's farewell to the hometown team - at least in my case, they went out on a winning note.

Pre-game introductions

The view we had from our seats during the first half. Even the nosebleed seats at the Verizon Center, where we sat, weren't far from the action.

DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' troubled young star, gets ready to shoot a free throw. The team was only 15 for 25 from the free throw line.

The girls at the start of the halftime break

Underway in the second half. An usher let us move to another section with a slightly better view of the action on the floor.

The Wizard Girls

The scoreboard shows the final score. 10 of Thomas' 22 points came in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner, of course. Francisco Garcia had 17 points, including four clutch three-point goals.

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