Purple Beacons and Mid-Range Pull-Ups
by Max Miller
After every win, a Sacramento King lumbers over to a big purple button. They are handed a microphone, occasionally uttering a few words of excited fan appreciation before leading an arena-wide countdown. Upon reaching the end of the sequence, the player pushes the plastic button, igniting a purple beam of light located on top of the Golden 1 Center. The purple beacon is sent into the cosmos, almost as a peace offering to the ever-evasive basketball gods.
This custom is a new one. This season is the beam’s first. It could not have picked a better inaugural season.
The Kings have stunk for a long, long time. The last time they had made the playoffs was in May 2006, back when fedoras were trendy and the iPhone was unreleased. Ever since then, the Kings seemed to be on a treadmill, putting together the same disappointment year in and year out. They’ve had their share of top-tier talent (love some good Demarcus Cousins), but never put together a competent enough team to even be in the outskirts of the playoff picture, not putting together a winning season since their last playoff berth.
But something about this year was different. Through multiple trades, draft acquisitions, and a much needed coaching change (Luke Walton was absolutely incompetent, Mike Brown is a wizard), they changed their identity. And they started winning. This year, their potent offense helped them attain the 3-seed in the gauntlet that is the Western conference. The Kings are truly a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps more importantly than the winning, though, the Kings are, for once, fun.
The Sacramento Kings are exciting in a way unlike any other small market team in recent memory. They are not fun to watch only due to a top-15 player; the Kings do not have the luxury of having somebody the level of Giannis Antetokounmpo, nor a 2007-era Stephen Curry-caliber player, who helped lead the eighth-seeded “We Believe” Warriors past the top ranked Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs’ first round. (Funnily enough, the “We Believe” slogan was borrowed from the Kings’ 2004-2005 marketing campaign.) Instead, the Kings have somehow put together an offense-heavy roster that is exceptionally fun to watch as a cohesive unit. Whether it is De’Aaron Fox’s clutch mid-range jumpers, a Domantas Sabonis post move, or a Malik Monk three point barrage (is there anything more fun to watch than a microwave scorer?), it feels that some player is always making a big-time shot in a big-time moment. Hell, even Alex Len (Alex Len!) had a huge stretch in Game 2 of the Kings’ first round series against the Warriors.
The Kings have harnessed the energy of an underdog, a lower seed on the verge of knocking off a title favorite, likely due to the 16-year playoff drought and their current matchup against a certain aforementioned Bay Area juggernaut. And while I am unsure whether they will escape this first round matchup victorious (I really hope they do), I believe in what the Sacramento Kings have created, both in terms of team building and culture. They have fostered an environment that the Californian capital has so badly missed for so many years. No matter the result, they have finally put together a young roster with a bright, bright future. And to that, I say, Light the Beam.