On a night of accolades for departing Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the Kings had a rebuke.
Less than two hours before the City Council prepared to vote on a resolution saying it “was partnering with the Sacramento Kings to retire and raise a ‘MAYOR KJ’ jersey in the rafters at Golden 1 Center in honor of the Mayor’s outstanding efforts,” the Kings denied any such thing would take place.
In a statement, the Kings said, “In addition to the wall honoring the Mayor and city council for their efforts to save our team, we do not have any immediate plans to retire his jersey.”
The statement continued, “however our organization continues to look for ways to honor the Mayor and all of those who were integral to the building of Golden 1 Center.”
A spokesman for Vice Mayor Rick Jennings, who spearheaded the effort to pass the resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting, said Jennings had discussed the matter with Kings team president Chris Granger. He also said the City Council will move forward with the effort at its 6 p.m. meeting despite the Kings’ response.
“Mr. Jennings has had a conversation with Mr. Granger and they are working through the details,” said Dennis Rogers, Jennings’ chief of staff.
Hanging a jersey in the rafters of a major league sports arena is a significant honor, reserved for Hall of Famers or athletes who leave a significant mark on their team’s history. When a jersey is raised, it typically means the number that player wore will never be used by that team again.
The Kings have retired 10 player jerseys, including the numbers for Chris Webber, Mitch Richmond and Vlade Divac. The team also has retired “6,” in honor of the Sixth Man, a nickname given to a team’s fan base.
Besides the “Sixth Man,” the only non-player to have a banner hanging in the rafters at Golden 1 Center is Jerry Reynolds for his work as general manager of the Sacramento Monarchs, the former Women’s National Basketball Association team.
It’s extremely rare for a player to be recognized in the rafters by a pro sports team that he never played for, and Johnson never played for the Kings. All of Major League Baseball’s teams have retired No. 42, the number worn by Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in the league. Michael Jordan’s No. 23 was retired by the Miami Heat.
Johnson's No. 7 has been retired by the Phoenix Suns. Johnson is widely credited for leading the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and for shepherding a $258 million public subsidy that allowed the Golden 1 Center to be built downtown.
The mayor’s office did not immediately return calls Tuesday afternoon for comment.