Sacramento Kings

Warriors fans in Sacramento: Bandwagon jumpers or diehards in enemy territory?

Golden State’s Kevin Durant, right, could rejoin Stephen Curry and his Warriors teammates in their NBA Finals series with the Toronto Raptors.
Golden State’s Kevin Durant, right, could rejoin Stephen Curry and his Warriors teammates in their NBA Finals series with the Toronto Raptors. AP

The Kings might be mired in the longest playoff drought in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean their passionate supporters are going to let Golden State Warriors fans infiltrate enemy territory during one of the best runs in league history.

Sacramento hasn’t hosted a playoff game since point guard Mike Bibby, the artist formally known as Ron Artest and coach Rick Adelman lost in the first round in 2006. Golden State, of course, is bidding for its fourth NBA title in five seasons, battling with the Raptors in the Finals this week for a chance at a rare three-peat.

Given the proximity between the two organizations – roughly 90 miles, a two-hour drive, depending on traffic – there’s naturally going to be some crossover. Some Bay Area natives have moved to Sacramento for the cheaper cost of living while maintaining their Warriors fandom.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between the two Pacific Division clubs is starting to heat up again as guard De’Aaron Fox is evolving into a franchise cornerstone similar to how Stephen Curry did with the Warriors after getting drafted in 2009. The Kings finished nine games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers this season in the Western Conference and are expected to be a playoff contender if the young core continues to improve in 2020.

And it’s clear Sacramento fans aren’t relenting on their Warriors counterparts within city limits, which has become especially obvious for Golden State fan Kyle Madson, an on-air host and producer for KHTK Sports 1140’s morning show, “The Drive with Carmichael Dave” on the Kings’ flagship airwaves.

“On the text line and our YouTube comments, it’s crazy,” Madson, 28, said. “People will actively ask for me to be fired and asking how a Warriors fan can possibly be working at KHTK, as if that’s in the job description, like you have to be a Kings fan. So there’s a lot of vitriol from people. And even when we’re just breaking down the games, just in general, if I say anything about, ‘That Steph shot was crazy!’ People are immediately like, ‘Oh, of course, the Warriors fan. Get him out of here.’ It’s a lot. It happens every time the Warriors come up.”

Online comments often don’t reflect the feelings shown during real-life interactions. Other Warriors fans in Sacramento are regulars when the two teams square off at the Golden 1 Center or the team’s old venue, Sleep Train Arena. The two fan bases are known to have a healthy and competitive rivalry representing Northern California’s two teams.

“We all have a good time just shooting it back and forth,” said David Allston, 60, a longtime Warriors fan who lives in the Sacramento area. “The Warriors have been beating the Kings like a drum the last couple of years. It’s been fun giving it to them and them not being able to respond. Now back in the early 2000s, when you had (Chris) Webber and (Vlade) Divac, (Doug) Christie, Bibby, those years, it was a little bit more them giving it to me, because I couldn’t say anything because the Warriors were horrible.”

Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Kings made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons from 1999 to 2006 while the Warriors’ current postseason streak is seven campaigns strong.

Golden State’s success has, naturally, led to Warriors fans regularly getting accused of riding the bandwagon. The team has grown into an international ratings powerhouse thanks to their unique collection of stars, headlined by Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They assuredly weren’t ratings gold back when Mookie Blaylock was running point at the turn of the century while Golden State was considered one of the most down-trodden organizations in the league.

Longtime Warriors fans will often point to their 12-year playoff dry spell snapped by the “We Believe” team led by Baron Davis in 2007.

“I get bandwagon, this and that. A lot of times I just ignore it,” said Marc Garcia, 46. “I’ve been a Warriors fan my whole life. I know it’s just good-natured ribbing, but it’s annoying. If I do watch a game, sometimes I go out to Davis because there’s more Warriors fans out there.”

Being annoying is probably the point. On the court, the Kings have amassed a 3-21 record against the Warriors since the start of the 2013 season. Telling a Golden State fan to get lost is the only recourse for many Sacramento fans. But that wasn’t always the case, particularly during the long drought before Curry was brought on board and the Kings were a Western Conference contender.

“Jason Richarson’s winning the dunk contest!’ And Kings fans are like, ‘Great, we’re winning playoff series,’” Madson said.

Of course, things could change. Golden State’s dominance is showing some cracks. The team has been injured constantly throughout the playoffs. Many of the team’s stars are in their 30s. And Durant, a six-time All-NBA player, is a free agent after this season – and he likes Sacramento.

“It’s ridiculous how fast they are,” Durant said after a December game against the Kings. “They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with for sure, and sooner rather than later.”

Even more so if Durant chooses to wear a purple uniform this summer. That’d give a different group of Sacramento-area fans something to crow about.

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