Sacramento Kings

Kings’ final game at Sleep Train Arena stirs emotions, memories

Sacramento Kings legends bid farewell to Sleep Train Arena

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In 1983, the Kings were purchased by a Sacramento group headed by Gregg Lukenbill for a tidy $10.5 million.

Rajon Rondo makes almost that much this season as a Kings guard, indicating how the economic times have changed.

Arco Arena II – now Sleep Train Arena – opened in 1988. It was constructed for $40 million, a drop in the proverbial cash-cow bucket of the price tag for Golden 1 Center – more than $500 million.

In the 28 seasons the Kings called the arena home, they had eight winning seasons and nine playoff appearances. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that equates to a lot more losing and misery than triumph and joy. But what made the old barn unique, its enduring hold on tens of thousands, were the people, experiences and memories, making the Kings’ final game there Saturday night all the more special.

More than 50 former Kings players were on hand for the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder – from Reggie Theus and Otis Thorpe to Mike Bibby and Bonzi Wells.

Mike Bibby visited Sleep Train Arena Tuesday night for his bobble head night and reminisces about fond times with Kings.

It was very special here. There was no building like this one.

Former Kings coach Rick Adelman

Here are some firsthand recollections of the arena:

Del Enos, statistician – Enos had an exclusive vantage point to NBA history. From his scorer’s table seat at midcourt, he served as an official stat man since the place opened. He logged assists, steals, rebounds – everything. He did it for nearly 1,700 games, including 290 Monarchs games.

“I’ve been a part of players’ history – Michael Jordan, John Stockton, LeBron James, Kings players – and I’m a part of their history, something only a statistician can really appreciate,” Enos said.

Enos isn’t allowed to stand and cheer in his role, but inside, he does. This place meant something to him because he could see the action and feel the energy. Still, he wasn’t weeping over the end of an era.

“My excitement about the new arena overrules any sadness about this,” Enos said. “I’m OK, we’re OK as a team, and it’s only going to get better.”

Rick Adelman, coach – Adelman directed the Kings’ most successful era in Sacramento – eight consecutive playoff berths, ending in the 2005-06 season, his last at the helm. The Kings haven’t finished with a winning record or reached the playoffs since. Saturday marked Adelman’s first visit to the arena since he retired from coaching with the Minnesota Timberwolves two years ago.

He lives in Portland, Ore., with his wife, Mary Kay, and keeps busy with his 10 grandchildren, noting, “There’s always a lot of games to attend on weekends.”

Adelman said he is “very proud” of what he and the Kings accomplished, with plenty of milestones at home.

“It’s so good to come back,” Adelman said. “It’s great that the fans have a new arena coming. It’s well past the time for that to happen. I think the people here will just love it.

“It was very special here. There was no building like this one.”

Rick Adelman coached the Kings to their best era, eight successive playoff berths and countless memories. He reflects on his Kings experience and Sleep Train Arena.

Barbara Rust, Sign Lady – She goes by “Sign Lady” to players, Kings staffers and thousands of fans, and Rust beams at the distinction.

What I take out of all of these years is the undying support of the fans. A full generation of fans have grown with this team.

Kings radio broadcaster Gary Gerould

Rust was the woman of the hour before tipoff. Scores of fans stopped by for handshakes, hugs and photos. She had more signs for this game than most.

“It’s bittersweet,” Rust said of bowing out of the building. “It’s great having a new arena and it’ll be so good for this city, but this building means so much to so many of us.

“I’ve loved every team that came in here, all of them, even this one. I’m like a team mom. I take them all in, make signs for all of them.”

Rust held a pair of sunglasses, explaining, “I may need these. I know I’ll cry. There will be waterworks.”

Watch the last Sacramento Kings final game at Sleep Train Arena in less than 15 seconds in this timelapse.

Gary Gerould, radio broadcaster – Gerould has been the Kings’ flagship radio voice since their arrival in 1985. His enthusiasm for all things hoops and Kings has not wavered a bit.

Gerould was somber in the home finale five years ago when it appeared the Kings were headed to Anaheim, and he was emotional three years ago when it looked as if the franchise would relocate to Seattle.

The Kings never left.

“You look at how close we were to losing this franchise to now, and it’s an amazing journey,” Gerould said. “Had we lost this team, there would not have been a comeback scenario. It would’ve been over. What I take out of all of these years is the undying support of the fans. A full generation of fans have grown with this team. We’re bringing down the curtain of one special place but will raise the curtain of something even more magnificent.”

Scott Moak, public address announcer – The voice who booms out starting lineups and myriad other things throughout games for 14 seasons, Moak always reveled in the idea of being able to yell indoors.

He ramped it up a bit more Saturday, fueled by adrenaline and memories.

“I will not be crying, though I did a few years ago when we thought we lost the team, but I’ll be nostalgic,” Moak said. “You talk to any player who played here, and to a man, they all say it: Sacramento is a one-of-a-kind place. That’s why this building is so special.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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