The Sacramento Kings are on the precipice of snapping one of the longest playoff droughts in professional sports. A win on Monday night (or a Clippers loss or Suns loss) would guarantee them one of the top-6 spots in the West and their first trip to the NBA Playoffs since the 2005-06 season.
The Kings were always bad in Sacramento until Rick Adelman arrived and led them to eight consecutive winning seasons and playoff berths, creating some true optimism in the Kings fan base. For Judy Hanlon, that string of success led her to buy season tickets in 2007. Since then, she has watched as the Kings have fallen short of the playoffs 16 consecutive times, never winning more than 39 games in the process.
On Monday, the Kings gave her the honor of ringing the bell before the game they were set to clinch a playoff berth, a deserved honor for a fan that has watched a team that has piled up 757 losses from the last playoff year to this season.
That is a Boeing jet’s worth of losses since the last playoff stretch. This is a lady with incredibly strong feelings on John Salmons and Marcus Thornton — as my friend Dan Devine notes in this incredible tweak to that screenshot.
I would love to see the jerseys and shirseys she’s owned over the years. For goodness sake, she’s sat in the stands and watched two different seasons in which Beno Udrih was the leader in win shares — and two with Willie Cauley-Stein.
While Judy is the avatar here, this is really an appreciation for Kings fans that have invested so much time and money in watching a franchise that has consistently been among the NBA’s worst. We salute you, friends in the Cowbell Kingdom, for having watched more bad basketball than any human should and still finding some joy. You’ve found hope in some truly hopeless places, trying to talk yourselves into Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Thomas Robinson (I really believed, too), Jason Thompson, Marvin Bagley II, and, of course, Georgios Papagiannis.
You deserve this season of thrills, because next year the expectations kick in and new stresses arrive. In the meantime, enjoy the sheer joy of the beam team and that sweet journey to the playoff oasis after damn near two decades in the desert.