I always thought Kevin Johnson’s position was intriguing. A former NBA player who is now a mayor of a major city in Sacramento, Calif., that simply makes for a good story as it is. Now, the plot has thickened.
Johnson is now the mayor of a city that’s in danger of losing its only major professional sports franchise, the NBA’s Kings. Rumors are swirling that Sacramento may lose the basketball team, owned by the Maloff brothers, to the city of Anaheim. Sacramento is researching building a new sports and entertainment arena in an effort to keep the team there.
But it puts Johnson in a rather interesting position. As a former player, he obviously loves basketball and the NBA and would love the Kings to stay. On the other hand, he can’t appear to be pandering to the Maloofs at the expense of his overall job as the city’s mayor. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Kevin Johnson joined KHTK in Sacramento with The Rise Guys to discuss the current status of the Kings in Sacramento, his chats with the Maloofs and NBA commissioner David Stern, the research into the viability of a new arena, the community’s efforts to keep the team in town and balancing his desire to keep his old profession in town with making sure he does the right thing in his new profession.
What’s the current story with the future of the Kings in Sacramento and did he talk to commissioner David Stern at All-Star weekend about it?:
“I talked to the commissioner a couple days before All-Star weekend and we had a very candid conversation. I think what he did in L.A., he was very honest with the public. He said, ‘Look, there are suitors and cities that are trying to get NBA teams … and the Anaheim group is talking to the Kings but the Maloof brothers have always said they’re going to keep their options open.’ At this point, I think it’s a little bit more than a rumor. … Our fans and our community has to do everything we can to let them know we want them in Sacramento.”
Has he heard anything from the Maloofs?:
“I’ve met with them and had conversations going back about three weeks ago. We’ve exchanged emails and had conversations. … What I’ve heard them say is we’ve got to keep our options open.”
Will the Maloofs provide the research they’ve done over time on the viability of a new sports/entertainment arena?:
“It’s hard to tell. Again, what our community needs to do is, number one, continue to support our team because they are our team. There’s going to be speculation … and there might even be transactions trying to be made. But at the end of the day, I still think there’s a possibility that we will keep the Kings in Sacramento.”
His support of the efforts of “Here We Stay,” a group trying to sell out Monday night’s game and a group trying to keep the Kings in town:
“That’s a very strong message. We’re playing the Clippers. If our attendance goes from whatever it is to we sell out, that just sends a strong message. It says, ‘We still have the best fans in the NBA, we do not want to lose our only professional sports team.’”
On balancing his mayoral duties and his basketball past:
“I think there are two good points. The first is we came up with something called the rules of the game. Number one, taxpayers came first. Number two, we’re not going to be used as leverage. I’ve said that. We want to be in a position of strength as a city. … What we are doing is we believe building an entertainment/sports complex is in the best interest of the city.”