That’s what LA Laker fans felt for the Sacramento Kings back in the early 2000s. In their eyes, the Lakers were the real kings of the NBA. That’s why to them, it was ludicrous when Sacramento, led by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic were challenging them in the West. They didn’t have royalty like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, or Phil Jackson. They were just a bunch of clowns with cowbells and a fancy-sounding system.
Disdain turned into apathy.
The Lakers, this time led by Kobe Bryant, continued to win championships later that decade. The Kings, as Laker fans predicted, were nothing but a flash in the pan. They couldn't sustain the success they had in previous seasons and were back to toiling in the bottom of the standings.
After the champagne ran out, the Lakers eventually found themselves at the bottom of the Pacific with the Kings. There was now mutual understanding between both teams.
Humbled, Laker fans now understood what it felt like to lose nearly the entire season. They now knew the difficulties that a young core trying to grow together faces. They finally felt the doubt creep in. Was passing on Jayson Tatum for Lonzo Ball the right move? Maybe Brandon Ingram isn’t the star he was pegged to be?
Then both teams slowly rose out of the bottom of the standings. One faster than the other, but both rising nonetheless. The Lakers shot right back into title contention after acquiring LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
It took the Kings some time to figure things out. After experimenting with Vlade Divac running the show, they figured things out and made the right moves to build their roster.
That’s what Laker fans feel about the Kings this season.
Sacramento not only ended their 16-season playoff drought this season, they made the playoffs emphatically as one of the best teams in the West. They didn’t sneak into the playoffs through the play-in tournament, like what the Lakers could possibly end up doing this season. The Kings are currently a top three team in the West and could finish the season holding on to that standing.
Sacramento had a clear identity coming into this season. They finally had a full offseason with this current core of De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Kevin Huerter, and Harrison Barnes. They took the summer to understand what they had and they landed on being one of the best offensive teams. Not just in the West. Not just this season. The Kings are currently the best offensive team… in the history of the NBA. That is a crystal-clear indication of who the Kings are this season.
Fox is the engine of this team. His energy and pace is what sets the tone for the team. Where Fox goes, the team follows. Sabonis is the beating heart of the Kings. He sets up in the middle of the floor and pumps out passes to all of his weapons. The Kings have an army of shooters and cutters, all playing within a free-flowing offensive system this season.
The Kings are having fun while winning as well. They fire up a purple laser into the sky after every win. That turned into the team and the community’s mantra this season. Light the beam! And even if they are an offensive juggernaut, they still find ways to showcase the defensive gems of the team by awarding them with a ridiculous-looking Defensive Player of the Game chain.
The identity, the vibes, the system. The Kings have had it since day one of this season. The Lakers, unfortunately, are still building all that with three games left in the regular season.
So yeah, maybe there’s a little jealousy in there as well. But one thing’s for sure, if these two teams end up facing each other in the playoffs, all those feelings from before will come rushing back in.