SACRAMENTO, Calif. – They met back in the same place Wednesday night, almost two years later to the day, to share emotions; to sing and just to hang around. Especially to hang around.
Kings fans got another season finale that could become the finale and turned it into a pep rally and party. They stayed after the game, and then kept staying.
Thousands of people remained in Sleep Train Arena long after the 112-108 loss to the Clippers before a capacity crowd of 17,317, first on both levels and then congregating entirely around the lower bowl and mostly ringing the court. With the win, Los Angeles got home-court advantage over the Grizzlies in the first-round series that starts Saturday. With the night, the people of Sacramento got its own reward.
Staffers held a rope around the court, presumably because these are days of increased security. Fans, allowed on the floor in the same situation in 2011, had stricter limits this time. It didn’t matter. They were in good spirits, chanting “Sac-ra-men-to!” and “Thank you, KJ” in appreciation of mayor Kevin Johnson, and other rally cries. The security personnel handled it all very well.
There were songs too. Phillip Phillips with “Home” was impossible to miss. So was Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline,” an unusual selection in the building but a particularly classy choice: it was a tribute to Boston. And signs, of course. Signs are always part of the Sleep Train experience. The best read:
Maybe it is over. Maybe it’s not. A group has reached agreement to buy majority interest in the Kings and move the team to Seattle next season. The Board of Directors, originally scheduled to vote on the sale in the next couple days as part of the regularly scheduled meeting, pushed the decision back at least a couple weeks. Fans left Wednesday night confident, but not actually knowing, whether this was the final game ever in the California capital.
The couple thousand fans that remained were asked to leave shortly after 11 p.m. They had stayed just like April 13, 2011, when the Lakers beat the Kings in overtime with the team on the ledge for the first time amid the possibility of relocation to Anaheim, Calif. That time felt like a wake, people finding cheer in a gloomy time. This wasn’t that. This was more like a pep rally. What a faithful group believed was the sendoff to a season and nothing more.