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TNT’s Kevin Harlan recalls mesmerizing style of old Kings teams

Broadcaster Kevin Harlan was formerly a play-by-play broadcaster for the Kansas City Kings.
Broadcaster Kevin Harlan was formerly a play-by-play broadcaster for the Kansas City Kings. Kansas City (Mo.) Star

The Kings haven’t been in high demand for the NBA’s national TV schedule for a few years.

But when they were, TNT’s Kevin Harlan visited Sacramento often. Harlan, who joined Turner as a play-by-play man in 1996, was back Thursday, when the Kings hosted the Los Angeles Lakers in Kobe Bryant’s final game in Sacramento.

Harlan liked covering the Lakers-Kings rivalry.

“That was really a special West Coast rivalry that stood out on its own,” he said. “It was so fun, so enjoyable. And what stood out to me was the style of how the Kings played the game. The European influence was certainly there. There was passing; there was speed. They had terrific guys coming off the bench. It was really some of the best NBA basketball I’ve had the chance to watch over my many years involved with the league.”

Harlan’s ties to the Kings date to their Kansas City days. Early in the Kansas alum’s broadcasting career, he was the play-by-play man for the Kansas City Kings.

When the Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985, the 24-year-old Harlan, who had grown fond of the Kansas City area, pondered his next move.

”I really wasn’t sure where I was going to fit, if I was going to go out there with the team,” Harlan said. “And what happened was it never happened, because it was in April and the radio voice of the Kansas City Chiefs was leaving to go do the Chicago Bears, and the Chiefs made an offer to me.

“I’ve always enjoyed my trips out there (to Northern California) and always thought, ‘What if I would have come out there? What I would have done and if I would have liked it.’ 

Throughout his career, Harlan has seen fans nationwide and experienced some of the best sporting environments. He said his favorite places to call games are Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers), Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas basketball) and the old Chicago Stadium (Bulls) and Boston Garden (Celtics).

Sacramento’s charm was the intimacy of Sleep Train Arena. Harlan said he always was impressed with how knowledgeable Kings fans were.

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And in the early 2000s, the Kings gave their fans plenty of reasons to cheer.

“I’ll never forget something (former Commissioner) David Stern said around that era when Jason (Williams) was there and Chris (Webber) and Vlade (Divac) and Peja (Stojakovic) and just the way they played, the freewheeling, accurate passing, mesmerizing style,” Harlan said. “The way the ball whipped back and forth was such an appealing way to play. The commissioner said, ‘That is the way we want the NBA to look. That is the pace, that is the offense, that is the skill.’ 

Trending up

The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green was the most recent Western Conference Player of the Week. In the latest results in voting for next month’s All-Star Game, he was third among frontcourt players, putting him on course to start. And he has four triple doubles in his last five games and leads the league with eight.

Green is more than a role player or defensive linchpin for the Warriors. He’s on his way to being a legitimate NBA star.

Trending down

The Charlotte Hornets started well but have lost six consecutive games. One factor has been injuries.

Al Jefferson (torn right meniscus) is out, and Nicolas Batum (sprained right toe) and Jeremy Lamb (wrist) are among those slowed by injuries lately.

The Hornets still have time to bounce back. But they’ll need a healthy Batum, their best addition last offseason, and a potent Kemba Walker.

Last words

“I mean it’s tough for me to agree, but I’ll just take the compliment. It would be impolite not to accept the compliment.”

Bryant when told Kings coach George Karl said the guard’s career has been the best of all the players who went directly from high school to the NBA.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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