Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sacramento Kings have a long history in professional basketball, but most of it is in other cities. The franchise joined the old National Basketball League in 1945 as the Rochester Royals and, with a lineup featuring future Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham, won the league title in their first year.
In two other seasons in the NBL, the Royals finished first during the regular season but lost to George Mikan in the NBL championship. In 1947, Mikan led the Chicago American Gears to a 3-1 series victory and in 1948, the Royals lost 3-1 to Mikan’s new club, the Minneapolis Lakers.
In 1949, the Royals—along with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Jets and Mikan’s Lakers, joined the Basketball Association of America, which became the NBA in 1950 when it absorbed the rest of the teams from the dying NBL.
Since coming to the NBA, the Kings’ franchise has made 29 playoff appearances in 66 seasons and its lone title came while the franchise was still in Rochester in 1951.
The runs of success for the franchise have been interspersed with periods where the team struggled to remain competitive.
The franchise made the playoffs in its first seven seasons in the BAA/NBA and by 1967, after moving to Cincinnati in 1957, had qualified for the postseason 14 times in 19 seasons.
That was followed by seven straight seasons, 1967-68 through 1973-74, that the franchise missed the postseason, with five of those years in Cincinnati and the last two coming after the team had moved to Kansas City and changed its name to the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, playing several home games each season in the Nebraska city.
The Kings made the playoffs in 1975 before missing again for three straight seasons, during which time the franchise lost the “Omaha” part of the moniker.
There was a run of three seasons, from 1978-79 through 1980-81, where the Kings made the playoffs every year and reached the conference finals in 1981.
The franchise was on the move again in 1985, this time moving to Sacramento, where it has been ever since. In 29 seasons in California’s capital city, there have been just 10 postseason appearances—eight of those coming consecutively from 1999-2006, which was also the last time the team reached the playoffs.
The franchise record for wins came during that run of success, when the team won 61 games and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2001-02, losing in controversial fashion to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, the franchise’s low-water mark also happened in Sacramento, when the Kings piled up 65 losses in 2008-09.
The franchise was spared another move just a year ago, when Indian businessman Vivek Ranadive stepped up to purchase the team from the Maloof family after the Maloofs had reportedly struck a deal with a group that planned to move the franchise to Seattle.
Rick Adelman is the franchise’s winningest coach, going 395-229 in eight seasons from 1998-99 through 2005-06—the same eight seasons that Sacramento made the playoffs every single year. In the modern era, the team has had 15 coaches in all, with Cotton Fitzsimmons (248-244) being the only one besides Adelman to post a winning record.
Interestingly, the team has had only 10 general managers in its entire existence, with four of them serving more than 10 years each. Les Harrison had the job from the franchise’s inception through March 1958, Pepper Wilson was the decision maker from March 1958 through April 1969, Joe Axelson had the gig from April 1969 through July 1979 and again from April 1982 through March 1988 and Geoff Petrie had the position from June 1994 through June 2013.
And here are the best players, by position, for the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings since 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise.