Sacramento Kings: 25 Best Players To Play For The Kings

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The Sacramento Kings are the continuation of a franchise born in the old National Basketball League as the Rochester Royals. Who are the team’s 25 best?

Apr 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; DJ Mixmaster Mike performs during half time of the game between the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 114-112 in what would be the final game in the building that opened as ARCO Arena in November 1988. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Next to the Detroit Pistons, no team in the NBA has been in operation longer than the Sacramento Kings.

Just not in Sacramento.

The franchise traces its roots back to the old National Basketball League, when it was founded as the Rochester Royals in 1945, winning the NBL championship in its first season.

The Royals reached the NBL championship series each of the next two seasons, falling to the Chicago American Gears in 1946-47 and the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947-48.

Both teams, it should be noted, were headlined by a big man named George Mikan, who would continue to be a thorn in the Royals’ side.

In 1948, the Royals jumped to the fledgling Basketball Association of America—entering its third season—and in 1949 that league would become known as the NBA.

The level of success for the franchise has not been as great since making the move.

Rochester won the NBA title in 1950-51—the only time in the history of the franchise it has reached the NBA Finals.

Lester and Jack Harrison, the owners of the Royals, moved the team to Cincinnati in 1957, but the Royals could only reach the Eastern Division Finals twice—in 1962-63 and 1963-64—during their 15 seasons in the Queen City.

In 1959, the team had been sold to a Cincinnati group headed by Thomas Woods and was in turn sold to Louis Jacobs in 1962.

In 1966, Max and Jeremy Jacobs purchased the franchise and in 1972, they picked up stakes and moved to Kansas City, becoming the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, to avoid confusion with baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

The plan was to play home games at both Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City and the Omaha Civic Auditorium.

That lasted three seasons. By 1975, the team was renamed the Kansas City Kings (even though games were occasionally played in Omaha).

In Kansas City, the Kings reached the Western Conference Finals once—in 1980-81—after an upset-filled playoffs that pitted the 40-42 Kings against the 40-42 Houston Rockets in the series. It was the last time a team with a losing regular-season record has reached the NBA Finals.

In 1985, the team was sold to Gregg Lukenbill and Joe Benvenuti and was moved once again, this time to the capital of California, Sacramento.

The team mostly stumbled along, sold to Jim Thomas in 1992 and continuing to flounder.

The arrival of the Maloof brothers as owners in 1999 coincided with the most successful period in Sacramento Kings history, a run of eight straight postseason appearances from 1999-2006 that peaked with a controversial seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

The 2005-06 season marked the last postseason appearance by the Kings.

The team was sold to current owner Vivek Ranadive in 2013 after the Maloof brothers had reached an agreement to sell the team to a Seattle group intent on moving the franchise out of the city.

The Kings are set to move from Sleep Train Arena—their home since moving to Sacramento—into the new Golden 1 Center for the start of the 2016-17 season.

In its 68 years in the NBA, the team has made the postseason only 29 times and has a winning percentage of .459 (2,464-2,905).

The franchise record for wins was set by the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings, who were 61-21—the only 60-win season in franchise history.

The best winning percentage, however, belongs to the 1948-49 and 1949-50 Rochester Royals squads at .750. The 1948-49 team went 45-15 before losing to Mikan and the Lakers in the Western Division Finals.

In 1949-50, the Royals finished 51-17 before being upset by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the division semifinals.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 2008-09 Sacramento club went 17-65—the lone 60-loss campaign in franchise history and its worst winning percentage ever.

The first three general managers in team history served for a total of 31 years—Lester Harrison from the time the Royals joined the BAA until March 1958, Pepper Wilson from March 1958 through April 1969 and Joe Axelson from April 1969 through July 1979.

Axelson returned to the post from April 1982 through March 1988—meaning he held the job for the franchise in three cities (four, if you count Omaha).

But the longest serving GM in franchise history is Geoff Petrie, who had the job from June 1994 until June 2013, when he was fired by new owner Ranadive.

Vlade Divac is the current personnel decision maker, assuming those duties in March 2015.

Axelson was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 1972-73, the first year the award was given out. Petrie won it twice, in 1998-99 and again in 2000-01.

Rick Adelman is the winningest coach in team history, going 395-229 from 1998-99 through 2005-06—making the playoffs in all eight of his seasons at the helm.

Harrison was 295-181 as coach from 1948-49 through 1954-55, Cotton Fitzsimmons was 248-244 from 1978-84 and Phil Johnson posted a record of 236-306 in two stints from 1973-77 and 1984-87.

Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year on 1974-75 and Fitzsimmons won the honor in 1978-79.

Sacramento will begin the season with its 28th head coach when Dave Joerger debuts. He was hired May 9 to replace George Karl, who was fired at season’s end after posting a record of 44-68 in parts of two seasons.

The club has had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft five times, selecting Si Green of Duquesne in 1956, Hot Rod Hundley of West Virginia in 1957, Bob Boozer of Kansas State in 1959, Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati as a territorial pick in 1960 and Pervis Ellison of Louisville in 1989.

Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Rochester Royals, Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, Kansas City Kings and Sacramento Kings. To be considered, a player had to have logged at least 150 games with the franchise and averaged at least 20 minutes per game.

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