By Will Robinson
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Last night, some fantastic news broke out. Chris Webber, one of the best basketball players during the late 90s and early 2000s, announced that he had formed a group in an effort to try to purchase the Sacramento Kings with the purpose of keeping them in Sacramento. I was ecstatic. If Webber, one of the, if not the greatest King during the Sacramento era, somehow manages to push the ongoing charge in trying to keep the team in town, he would be the River City Saint. I even said on Twitter and on my Facebook, that there should be a pure gold statue of Webber erected in his honor. Hell, there should a statue of him anyways. This sparked some jokes and such, but it prompted an idea for a BLOG post: Who are the top 10 Kings of the Sacramento era? Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is the DEFINITIVE TSL Top 10 Sacramento-era Kings. Just for some criteria: I’m looking at people who were in Sacramento for at least three years.
10. Jason Williams
I ALMOST put Mateen Cleaves here at the bottom of the list, but I decided to go with someone that actually contributed something to the franchise. Williams did not put up particularly fantastic numbers will in Sacramento (11.3 PPG-2.7 RPG-6.3 APG), but he should be credited in sparking the “new Kings.” Williams was known for his amazing passing ability but was not a particularly amazing shooter and made some boneheaded moves. I have to give Williams some props for sparking the high-powered, fast-paced Kings offense, and was the key piece in the Mike Bibby trade.
9. Lionel Simmons
I really don’t know much about Lionel Simmons, but after doing some homework, he had a really fast start to his career. He played his whole seven-year career in Sacramento, and was second in Rookie of the Year voting to Derrick Coleman, in which he recorded 18.0-8.8-4.0 during his first year. In his first three years, by far his best, he averaged 17.7-8.1-4.3 – decent numbers for a second option on the team from the three spot. Injuries derailed his career, and he was relegated to the bench after his fourth year, but he gave some good years to the franchise.
8. Reggie Theus
Kings fans know about Theus’ shaky tenure as the head coach, but he put up some good numbers. During his three-year stay in town, Theus posted an impressive 20.0-3.4-8.3. He was by far one of the most dangerous players on the Kings team during the 80s, during their rough patch. He also played two years for Kansas City, so he was one of the original Kings to come over. Plus, he was front and center in this sweet picture. Just stay away from the bench, Reggie. No coaching for you.
7. Wayman Tisdale
The late Wayman Tisdale, as well as being an accomplished jazz musician, was quite the ball player. He was traded to Sacramento in the middle of the 1988-89 from the Pacers for Randy Whitman and LaSalle Thompson. He took Sacramento by storm; he averaged 19.8-9.6-1.7 right after being traded. For his best four-year stretch (counting his half season after being traded and his injured season), Tisdale posted 19.7-7.5-1.5, including an impressive 22.3-7.7-2.0, with a career high in points per game in a season. Just like Simmons, Theus, and one other person further on the list, the lack of winning during one’s tenure in Sacramento hurts their standing. Tisdale will always be remembered as a phenomenal college player and (according to me) as the seventh best Sacramento King.
6. Doug Christie
Christie never lit up the scoreboard, but while he was on the team, he was never asked to. The Kings acquired Christie from the Raptors for Corliss Williamson before the 2000-01 season to join Williams, Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and Vlade Divac in the starting five. Christie was the quintessential perimeter defender the Kings needed to add to their lineup to compete against division rival, Kobe Bryant (most of the great scoring guards were in the East). During his peak years in Sacramento, Christie averaged at least 2 steals per game and at least 35% from behind the arc. He made the All-Defensive Second team in 2001-02 and 2004, and the first team in 2003. Christie’s tenacious defensive was one of the final keys the Kings needed to tear up the league.
5. Vlade Divac
During the Kings’ swift building process in 1998, the signing of center Vlade Divac was a crucial one. Divac was an efficient center and an elite passer from the five spot, and became one of the best centers in the league. Divac is one of the three Sacramento-era Kings to have their number retired, and with good cause. His statistics were not particularly amazing, with a high of 14.3 PPG during his tenure, but at the highest, Divac was the third scoring option. His passing from the block was critical to the team’s success, and he always had a reliable driving hook he could make with a high percentage. The history of the Kings will always include Vlade and his chain-smoking.
4. Mike Bibby
I really thought I would be placing Bibby higher on this list, but his numbers and duration on the team made me put him slightly behind the next guy. There is absolutely no doubt that the Bibby trade was perhaps the most important move for their success, as the integration of Bibby to the lineup produced the best Kings team to date. Unlike Webber or Peja, Bibby never seemed afraid of the biggest of moments. Sure, Webber and Peja have made their fair share of big shots, but they both had a tendency to drift away in crunch time. Bibby made the gigantic shot in Game 5 in 2002 against the Lakers to win that game (I just got chills watching the clip). He carried the Kings in Game 7 as they tried to beat LA and make the NBA Finals, but the team came up short. Bibby didn’t even hit his peak until after the series, but it was a launch point for his career. Bibby was the perfect floor general the team needed to make the next step in the league.
3. Peja Stojakovic
Growing up, my favorite King was undoubtedly Peja Stojakovic. The way Peja was an assassin from behind the arc really drew me to him, and he was one of the most important players to the team. When he became a starter, Peja never shot worse than 38% on three pointers, and during his best season, 2003-04, he averaged 24.2-6.3-2.1, with 43% for 3’s, 48% from the field, and 92.7% from the free throw line. My only Peja-related beef is that they too quickly incorporated him after his injury during the 2002 Western Conference Finals and was ICE cold during Game 7. Regardless, Peja was one of the best players the Kings have had, and his contributions to the franchise should not be forgotten. Plus, he has won TWO Three Point Shootouts. Shouldn’t that be enough?
2. Mitch Richmond
Before CWebb and Peja joined the Kings, this is what we had as our consummate All-Star candidate. Richmond was the lone beacon of light during a very, very dark time for the Kings. Richmond flourished while in Sacramento, getting a career high in points averaged in a year during the 1996-97 season. He put the team on his back and led them to a playoff berth. As I mentioned earlier, Richmond is one of the three Kings with his name and number in the rafters. He gave the team seven great years and never failed to average less than 20 PPG. In addition, after giving seven great years, he was the key trade piece in acquiring the number one player…
1. Chris Webber
This spot is undeniably Webber’s until someone unseats him. He may have received a bad rap about being unclutch in the last five minutes of games (perhaps as a result of the dreaded timeout – I cannot watch this), he was phenomenal for the team. During his reign, Webber’s peak resulted in 25.4-10.6-4.5 – great numbers. He is responsible for some great moments, such as his amazing 51-26 game, and is the only superstar the Kings have ever had, and made five All-NBA Teams (1x First Team; 3x Second Team; 1x Third Team). During the 2001-02 playoffs, he only failed to score 20 two times and grab 10 rebounds six times in 16 games. I love watching highlights of the “good ol’ days,” especially watching Webber dominate the high post.
There you have it, my top Sacramento Kings. I hope they will be here long enough so there will be some additions to this list (Cousins, DeMarcus and Evans, Tyreke), but who knows what the future holds. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. All we can do is that.