NBA Kings Kick Off Ranadive Era With Sellout Crowd, Pregame Salute To Stern
The NBA Kings' season-opener against the Nuggets last night at Sleep Train Arena was a "mix of Hollywood and Bollywood on the hardwood, providing solid evidence that the team has already moved well past its most recent era under the ownership of the Maloof family, when it habitually lost games amid dwindling crowds," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Lillis & Davidson of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive prior to the game said to the sellout crowd of 17,317, "I have just one thing to say to you. This is your team. And it is here to stay." Many in the crowd said that they had "come to bask in the fact that Sacramento had somehow, over the last three years, fended off serious attempts by two cities to take the team." NBA Commissioner David Stern was in attendance and he "drew shouts of 'David, David, thank you David,' from fans." Stern said that he "plans to return, in retirement, for opening night" at the team's planned $448M arena in Downtown Plaza. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "It’s overwhelming. Last night felt like Christmas Eve. The tenacity of this community ... we played to win, and here we are." Team investor Mark Mastrov said, "Vivek and I were practically crying." However, the Kings' opening night "was not without its glitches." Fans said that Wi-Fi connections and cellphone reception "were glitchy" in the arena, despite the team's offseason Wi-Fi upgrades. But Ranadive said that his goal is to "turn the Kings into a model franchise, and the most technologically advanced." He added that this included a "new team app for smartphones that ultimately will recognize its users, showing fans the shortest path to their seats, or to the nearest bathroom" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/31).
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes last night's game featured "pregame pageantry, pyrotechnics and star power at courtside," while the "improved video boards showed the local fight to keep the Kings from being sold and relocated to Seattle." The fans' "roar evoked memories of the Kings' days as a championship contender a decade ago" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/31). The BEE's Ailene Voisin: "This was the Kings' opener of openers, a purple carpet ride for the decades, an evening when the past and future converged on a cleaned-up old barn." It was a "bit of a circus but in a charming, Sacramento sort-of way." Ranadive, who "joked that Stern will have plenty of idle time when he retires Feb. 1 after 30 years ... handed the commissioner a hard hat." Stern said, "I have had so many highs in my career. ... (But) it feels really, really good to keep the Kings in Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/31).
SALUTING STERN: USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes, "There was no freshly built statue awaiting David Stern ... but that didn't mean he wouldn't receive the royal treatment." He was the "man who helped save" the Kings, and five months after the league's BOG voted to keep the team in Sacramento, "this was their night for a shared victory lap." Ranadive said, "What (Stern) has built in the NBA, it's truly a once-in-a-century platform. He's has created what will be a golden era for the NBA. It's got great players, great rivalries, and it's also got global interest. ... He's a man who's clearly ahead of his time." Johnson said of Stern, "He basically helped me put it all in perspective early on. He said, 'You know this league as well or better than anybody. Draw from your competitive advantages, whatever those may be.'" Ranadive: "He is always one step ahead of everyone else. He saw the China opportunity before anyone else did. He saw the globalization opportunity when nobody else did. He saw the Olympic opportunity, and now of course the rest of the world, like India" (USATODAY.com, 10/31). Stern noted the game was being broadcast live in India and said NBA "social media is up" in the country. He added NBA games in India "are increasing in their audience." Stern said the league is trying to "deliver our sport and its values to growing numbers of Indian youth" (KXTV-ABC, 10/30).