LAS VEGAS - In Sacramento, the general consensus is that three men helped save the Kings; new Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA Commissioner David Stern.
While none of them would publically accept that praise, Stern denies he provided any extra boost to keep the Kings in California's capital. From the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Stern said at the beginning he was sure the team was headed to Seattle.
"Initially, I did," Stern said. "There was no ownership group that would step up in Sacramento, and there was no real building plan at the time on the books and I thought it was over."
But then, as Stern said, Johnson entered on his white horse and changed the game.
Many know though, Stern had a lot to do with it. A prime example is a press conference at Oracle Arena when he announced Sacramento needed to up the offer to match Seattle. Many believed Stern was holding Sacramento's hand and was telling the city what it needed to succeed.
"Actually, I thought I was giving them a kick in the behind," Stern said with a smile on his face. "I wasn't holding their hand at all."
Stern did give a little insight into how the team owners handled the Sacramento versus Seattle situation, saying many of them were willing to give Sacramento a chance after Johnson made good on the ticket sales and corporate sponsorship promises that kept the team from moving to Anaheim a year ago.
"And I think the owners were more inclined to accept that because they had seen him deliver once before," Stern said.
"When the bid came in from Seattle, there was nothing in Sacramento, and Mayor Johnson called and said, 'What do we do?'" Stern explained. "And the owners that he called and I said unless there's a new building and ownership group prepared to match the offer, it just doesn't seem like there's going to be much traction."
The past several years have been a rollercoaster of handshake agreements and non-binding term sheets, spanning from Anaheim to Virginia Beach.
When asked if there was ever a time over the past five or six years that Stern thought the Kings would benefit from new ownership, he said yes, once the Maloofs started looking to move the team or looking for new buyers.
But that is now in the history books with a new Kings era upon Sacramento.
And with seven months left as NBA Commissioner, what does the NBA's top dog have to say to Sacramento?
"I would just like to thank them for their extraordinary support over the years and thank them for their continued support," Stern said with a grin. "I have no doubt that Sacramento has the ability and capacity under its new ownership to be in the first rank of NBA teams. So buy tickets."
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org