SACRAMENTO – Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson warned the citizens of Seattle not to celebrate too early over the recent news that the Sacramento Kings have been sold to play in their city.

Johnson assembled a group of 20 local business leaders — including African American physician Dr. Nate Allen — who are committed to keeping the NBA team in Sacramento. Each leader has invested $1 million each, signaling that the fight is far from over. Mayor Johnson said this group is prepared to “present a fair and competitive offer” to the Kings current owners and NBA brass.

“I strongly believe that (Seattle residents) do deserve an NBA team at some point…just not ours,” Johnson said at a news conference held at City Hall Tuesday afternoon. “I would also caution the folks in Seattle: don’t celebrate too early. This isn’t about our city against their city or one mayor against another. (But) we have something that is ours. We want to keep it and make it the final resting place for the Sacramento Kings,” the mayor stated.

Johnson began putting the group together last Thursday. He started with three proprietors that led to $3 million. Johnson revealed 19 individuals at the news conference, though two hours after it ended, another person was added to the list. The effort to hold on to the Kings is being engineered through The Think Big Sacramento initiative.

On Monday, the NBA reported that the Maloof family agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen. The sale, reportedly valued at $525 million, would have the team moving to Seattle as early as next season. However, the Maloofs, if willing, can listen to other offers.

Fortunately for local fans, the NBA Board of Governors must officially vote on the transaction. That process may not be until April when Johnson expects to face the board once again, to convince it that Sacramento still wants to keep the team in the city and it has the finances to make a reasonable bid to keep them here. But Sacramento will need 15 of the 29 owners to vote against the deal. Johnson offered no guarantees, but did convey that the city can still work to salvage what it has had for nearly 30 years.

“The NBA reserves the right to approve a relocation or a sale for a variety of reasons,” Johnson said. “Part of that is because it is unprecedented for a team to be relocated from a city that has done everything this city has done for 28 years. There is no other NBA city that can claim or proclaim what our city has done for 28 years.”

Most of the members of leadership group were in attendance in the lobby of City Hall as Johnson laid out his “Playing to Win” plan. The announcement also included members from the Sacramento City Council, the City Manager, and a throng of Sacramento Kings fans.

Some of the individuals part of the local ownership group include Steve Ayers, Dale Carlsen, Dorene Dominguez, Brad Jenkins, Larry Kelley, Kevin Nagle, the Fahn family, Phil Oates, John Stone, Dave Taylor, and developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos.

Thus far, Dr. Allen is the only African American in the group.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer