The Royals defected to the NBL's rival, the Basketball Association of America, in 1948. In 1949, as a result of that year's absorption of the NBL by the BAA, the Royals became members of the newly formed NBA along with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers, and Indianapolis (Kautskys) Jets. A year later, the BAA absorbed the remaining NBL teams to become the National Basketball Association.
The move to the BAA took away Rochester's profitable exhibition schedule, and placed it in the same Western Division that Minneapolis was in. Of the two best teams in pro basketball, only one of them could play in the league finals from 1949 to 1954. Minneapolis, with George Mikan, was almost always a little better at playoff time than the Royals. With their smallish arena and now-limited schedule, the Royals became less profitable even as Harrison maintained a remarkably high standard for the team, which finished no lower than second in its division in both the NBL and BAA/NBA from 1945 to 1954. Harrison knew that the NBA was outgrowing Rochester, and spent most of the 1950s looking for a buyer for his team.
The Royals won the NBA title in 1951 by defeating the New York Knicks 4 games to 3. It is the only NBA championship in the franchise's history. However, the title did not translate into profit for the Royals. The roster turned over in 1955, except for Bobby Wanzer; the team moved to the larger Rochester War Memorial. Now a losing team filled with rookies, the Royals still did not turn a profit. Meanwhile, the NBA was putting pressure on Harrison to sell or relocate his team to a larger city. With this in mind, the 1956–57 season was the Royals' last in Rochester.
The Royals' stay in Rochester featured the services of nine future members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, one member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a Hollywood Walk of Famer: Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Alex Hannum, Les Harrison, Red Holzman, Arnie Risen, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, Bobby Wanzer, Otto Graham, Chuck Connors and Jack McMahon.
In April 1957, the Harrison brothers moved the Royals to Cincinnati. This move followed a well-received regular season game played at Cincinnati Gardens on February 1, 1957. The change of venue had been said to have been suggested by Jack Twyman and Dave Piontek, who were two of several roster players on the new Royals from that region. Cincinnati, which had a strong college basketball fan base and no NFL franchise to compete with, was deemed the best choice for the Harrisons. The Royals name continued to fit in Cincinnati, often known as the "Queen City".
During the team's first NBA draft in Cincinnati, the team acquired Clyde Lovellette and guard George King. They teamed with the 1–2 punch of Maurice Stokes and Twyman to produce a budding contender in the team's very first season in the Queen City. Injury to Marshall and the loss of star guard Si Green to military service dropped the team into a tie for second place in the NBA Western Division during the 1957–58 season's second half.
In the season's finale, All-Pro star Maurice Stokes struck his head when he fell after pursuing a rebound. He shook off the effects of the fall, even as he had briefly been unconscious. After Game One in the playoffs three days later, Stokes' head injury was greatly aggravated by airplane cabin pressure during the flight back to Cincinnati for Game Two. He suffered a seizure and was permanently hospitalized, a tragedy that greatly shook the team. Stokes, a tremendous talent who could play center, forward and guard, was 2nd in the NBA in rebounds and 3rd in assists, a double-feat only Wilt Chamberlain has matched for a full season. Without Stokes, the team nearly folded.
Fellow All-Star Twyman rose to All-Pro level the next two seasons for Cincinnati, even as the team posted two 19-win seasons. The 1958–59 Cincinnati team featured five rookies, with Lovellette, King and other key players having left the team in the wake of Stokes' tragic injury. The Harrisons, under pressure to sell to a local group, sold to a local ownership headed by Thomas Woods. The fact that Stokes was simply dumped by the team and the new ownership infuriated many.
Jack Twyman came to aid of his teammate and even legally adopted Stokes. Raising funds for Stokes' medical treatment, Twyman helped him until his death in April 1970. The 1973 feature film Maurie, which co-starred actors Bernie Casey and Bo Svenson, dramatized their story.
Shooting often for the beleaguered team, Twyman was the second NBA player to average 30 points per game for an NBA season. Twyman and Stokes were later named Hall of Famers.
In 1960, the team was able to land local superstar Oscar Robertson. Robertson led a team that included Twyman, Wayne Embry, Bob Boozer, Bucky Bockhorn, Tom Hawkins and Adrian Smith over the next three seasons. The Royals reversed their fortunes with Robertson and rose to title contender. An ownership dispute in early 1963 scuttled the team's playoff chances when new owner Louis Jacobs booked a circus for Cincinnati Gardens for the week of the playoff series versus the champion Boston Celtics. The Royals home games were at Xavier University's home Schmidt Field House.
In late 1963, another local superstar, Jerry Lucas, joined the team. The Royals rose to second-best record in the NBA. From 1963 to 1966, the Royals contended strongly against Boston and the Philadelphia 76ers, but won no titles. The team's star players throughout the 1960s were Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Robertson met with individual success, averaging a triple-double in 1961–62 and winning the Most Valuable Player award in 1964. Robertson was a league-leading scorer and passer each season. Lucas was Rookie Of the Year in 1964, led the league in shooting, and later averaged 20 rebounds per game over three seasons. Both were All-NBA First Team selections multiple times.
The team failed to keep promising players and played in the tough NBA East division, dominated by the Boston Celtics, even as a Baltimore team played in the West Division for three years, denying the team likely visits to the NBA Finals.
In 1966, the team was sold to Max and Jeremy Jacobs. That same season, the Royals began playing some of their home games in neutral sites such as Cleveland (until the Cavaliers began play in 1970), Dayton and Columbus, Ohio which was the norm for the rest of the Royals tenure in the Queen City.
New coach Bob Cousy traded Lucas in 1969. Robertson was traded to Milwaukee in 1970, where he immediately won an NBA title. The declining franchise left Cincinnati shortly thereafter, moving to Kansas City in 1972.
The Royals, on moving to Kansas City, renamed themselves the Kings to avoid confusion with the Royals baseball team. The team initially divided its home games between Kansas City and Omaha until 1975, when it abandoned the Omaha market. During that time the team was officially called the "Kansas City-Omaha Kings". The move from Omaha marked the opening of the 16,785-seat Kemper Arena in Kansas City. During the first days the Kings played at the 7,316-seat Municipal Auditorium. While in Omaha the team played in the 9,300-seat Omaha Civic Auditorium.
The team netted a new superstar in Nate Archibald, who led the league in scoring and assists in the 1972–73 season. The Kings later played several home games in St. Louis during the early 1980s to large crowds.
While still in Cincinnati, the Kings introduced a most unusual uniform design, which placed the player's surname below his number. The design remained intact through the first several seasons of the team's run in Sacramento, even when the shade of blue on the road uniforms was changed from royal blue to powder blue, and the script '"Kansas City"' which adorned the road jerseys was scrubbed after the move in favor of a repeat of the "Kings" script on the home shirts. The Kings' back jersey template was later adopted by the WNBA and the NBA Development League, as well the NBA during the All-Star Game since 2006.
The Kings had some decent players throughout. Tom Van Arsdale, the shooting forward, "Jumpin" Johnny Green, and Matt Guokas helped Archibald in the first year in Kansas City. Toby Kimball was a fan favorite. Jimmy Walker teamed with Archibald as the Kings made the playoffs the second year. Sam Lacey, an effective passing center, became one of the most dependable players in the league. Archibald became the first player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the first season in Kansas City. However, the management traded Archibald, and wasted high draft picks. Bob Cousy gave way to Phil Johnson, who was fired midyear in 1977 and replaced by Larry Staverman, a player on the team on two separate occasions when it was in Cincinnati and who later became the Cleveland Indians groundskeeper.
The Kings finally achieved some success in their new home when they hired Cotton Fitzsimmons as coach. Fitzsimmons won the Midwest Division in 1978–79 with rookie point guard Phil Ford, who was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1979. Kansas City was led by shooting guard Otis Birdsong, strong on both offense and defense, all-around shooting forward Scott Wedman, and passing center Sam Lacey, who had a trademark 25-foot (7.6 m) bank shot. They drew an average of 10,789 fans to Kemper Arena that season, the only time during their tenure in KC that average attendance was in five figures (the attendance at the peak was only two-thirds of Kemper's capacity). Most Kansas City sports fans preferred to spend their entertainment dollar on the Royals, who won the American League West division championship four times in five seasons between 1976 and 1980, and reached the 1980 World Series.
The Kings made the playoffs in 1979–80 and again in 1980–81, despite finishing the 1980–81 regular season at 40–42. The Kings made a run in the 1981 NBA Playoffs, reaching the Western Conference finals. Ernie Grunfeld played the point in this run in place of an injured Ford, as KC used a slow half-court game to win the first two rounds. Power forward Reggie King had a remarkable series, dominating the opposition. After upsetting the Phoenix Suns by winning Game 7 at Phoenix in the Conference Semifinals and becoming the 2nd NBA road team to do so after leading series 3–1, they bowed to the Houston Rockets (who also went 40-42 in the 1980–81 regular season) in five games in the Conference Finals. Lacey, the last remaining Cincinnati Royal to play for the Kings, was completely dominated in the low post by Rockets superstar Moses Malone, who won the first of three consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player awards in 1980–81.
However, a series of bad luck incidents prevented the team from building on its success. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien lured Wedman and Birdsong away with big contract offers. In 1979, the roof literally fell in at Kemper Arena because of a severe storm, forcing the team to play most of the 1979–80 season at the much smaller Municipal Auditorium. The ownership group sold the team to Sacramento interests for $11 million. The general manager was fired in a scandal in which he was found to be reusing marked postage stamps. When the Kings rehired Joe Axelson as general manager, they brought back the man who had previously traded Oscar Robertson, Norm Van Lier, Nate Archibald and Jerry Lucas, and used the third pick in the ABA dispersal draft on Ron Boone. Axelson stayed on after the Kings left Kansas City where, in their last game ever, fans wore Joe Axelson masks. Axelson later said he hoped his plane would never touch down in Kansas City.
Axelson became the first general manager in the history of sports to fail with the same franchise in four different cities: Cincinnati, Kansas City, Omaha and Sacramento. He was not fired for good until he rehired coach Phil Johnson, whom he had fired in mid-season in Kansas City ten years before. The Kings also had the misfortune of entering this period competing with the Kansas City Comets for the winter sports dollar, when the Comets were led by marketers—the Leiweke brothers. Their final season, 1984–85, resulted in a 31–51 record as fans stayed away from Kemper Arena in droves, with average attendance of 6,410. Long-time ABA and NBA star, Don Buse, played his final professional season for the Kings.
The Kings moved to their current home of Sacramento, California in the 1985–86 NBA season, with their first Sacramento season ending in the first round of the Western Conference 1986 NBA Playoffs. The starting lineup was Reggie Theus, LaSalle Thompson, Mark Olberding, Terry Tyler, and Mike Woodson, with Larry Drew, Eddie Johnson, Otis Thorpe, and Joe Kleine coming off the bench. However, despite fan loyalty the Kings saw little success in subsequent seasons, and the team did not make the playoffs again until the 1996 NBA Playoffs in the 1995–96 NBA season. Some of their failure was attributable to misfortunes such as the career-altering car crash suffered by promising point guard Bobby Hurley in 1993, and the suicide of Ricky Berry during the 1989 off-season; some was attributed to poor management such as the long tenure of head coach Garry St. Jean and the selection of "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison with the first overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft. Current Kings television broadcaster Jerry Reynolds (1987, 1988–90) and NBA legend Bill Russell (1987–88) were the earliest head coaches.
Ricky Berry was selected by the Kings in the first round, 18th pick overall in the 1988 NBA draft. He had a dazzling rookie year in the 1988–89 season shooting 40.6% from three-point range. The Kings also drafted Vinny Del Negro (selected by the Kings in the second round, 29th overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft) and acquired Rodney McCray from the Houston Rockets. In his first year with the Kings, McCray made (1988 NBA All-Defensive First Team). It was the first season the Kings would play without Reggie Theus and LaSalle Thompson (both part in the original team from Kansas City) or Joe Kleine (selected by the Kings as first round, sixth pick overall in the 1985 NBA draft). Thompson was drafted by the Kings in the first round, fifth overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft. It was also the last year that Michael Jackson (selected by the New York Knicks in the second round, 47th pick overall in the 1986 NBA draft but who played his entire career with the Kings) and Ed Pinckney (selected 10th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 1985 NBA draft and played for the Kings from 1987 to 1989) played for the Kings. On February 23, 1989, Brad Lohaus and Danny Ainge were traded to the Kings from the Boston Celtics for Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney. In June of the 1989 off-season, Lohaus was then acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1989 NBA Expansion Draft. In August of the 1989 off-season, Berry was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Fair Oaks, California just weeks before his 25th birthday following an argument with his wife.
Following the loss of Ricky Berry, 1989–90 season featured Pervis Ellison, who was first overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft by the Kings, and acquisition Wayman Tisdale (from the Indiana Pacers, second pick overall in the 1985 NBA draft). An injury kept Ellison on the sidelines for 48 of 82 games of his rookie year, after which he was traded to the Washington Bullets. Tisdale would go on to play for the Kings for five years. It was the last season that Danny Ainge, Kenny Smith (who had an impressive showing in the 1990 NBA Slam Dunk Contest), Rodney McCray, Harold Pressley (selected by the Kings in the first round, 17th overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft), Vinny Del Negro, Greg Kite, and Ralph Sampson played for the Kings. In 1990, Ainge was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, Kenny Smith was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, and Rodney McCray was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
Lionel Simmons – or L-Train – was drafted by the Kings in the 1990 NBA draft in the first round, 7th pick overall. In his first season, he made the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He would go on to play his entire career (1990–1997) with the Kings and had 5,833 career points. Antoine Carr (acquired from the Atlanta Hawks) played for the Kings in the 1990–91 NBA season and then was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. Free agent Leon Wood, who would later become an NBA official, played for the Kings but was let go on Christmas Eve of 1990. Also notable that Bill Wennington was acquired from the Dallas Mavericks and played for the Kings for the 1990–91 season and after a successful career with the Chicago Bulls returned to the Kings for his final season in 1999–2000.
The early 1990s were difficult for the Kings. Sacramento was known for having strong fan support, and while they won over 60% of their home games, the team struggled on the road, going 1–40 on the road in a single season. But prayers were answered when they acquired Mitch Richmond, who previously played for the Golden State Warriors. The former NBA Rookie of the Year was selected as an All-Star six times while making the All-NBA Second Team three times. Garry St. Jean was chosen as new coach in 1992 and coached the team all the way through 1997, where he was replaced by Eddie Jordan.
During the 90's Sacramento had other stars like Spud Webb, Kurt Rambis, Wayman Tisdale, Walt Williams, Olden Polynice and Brian Grant, but they only lasted with the team for a few years. After the 1992–93 season, Rambis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. After the 1993–94 season, Tisdale was traded to the Phoenix Suns. After the 1994–95 season, Webb was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Tyrone Corbin. Midway through the 1995–96 season, Williams was traded to the Miami Heat for Billy Owens (who was drafted by the Kings in 1991, and traded to Golden State for Richmond). After the 1996–97 season, Grant became a free agent and signed with the Portland Trail Blazers.
One accomplishment the team achieved under St. Jean during their tenures was a playoff appearance in 1996. The series was lost 3–1 to the Seattle SuperSonics who, led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, finished as that year's conference champions. They did not make a playoff appearance again while Richmond was still on the Kings. He was soon traded along with Otis Thorpe to the Washington Wizards for Chris Webber in May 1998. Although Richmond was lost, this trade proved to be one of the keys to finally achieving playoff success after so many seasons of mediocrity.
The Kings began to emerge from mediocrity with the draft selection of Jason Williams in the 1998 NBA draft, the signing of Vlade Divac, and the trade for Chris Webber prior to the lockout-shortened season of 1998–99. These acquisitions coincided with the arrival of Peja Stojaković from Serbia, who had been drafted in 1996. Each of these moves was attributed to general manager Geoff Petrie, who has won the NBA Executive of the Year Award twice.
Led by new head coach Rick Adelman, and aided by former Princeton head coach Pete Carril, the Kings' Princeton offense impressed others for its quick style and strong ball movement. Some criticized the Kings for their poor team defense, Williams's "flash over substance" style with its many turnovers, and Webber's failure to step up in important match-ups. Still, they quickly garnered many fans outside of California, many of whom were drawn to the spectacular pairing of Williams and Webber. In 1998–99, they went 27–23, their first winning season in nearly twenty years and their first since moving to Sacramento. The new arrivals Webber, Williams, and Divac all played key roles in this resurgence; Divac ranked near the top of the team in most statistics, Webber led the league in rebounds and was named to the All-NBA Second Team, and Williams was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. In the playoffs, they were matched up against the defending Western Conference Champions, the Utah Jazz. After winning Game 1 by 20 points, the Jazz surrendered two consecutive playoff games to the Kings. They would turn the series around, however, and win the last two to keep the Kings from advancing in the playoffs.
In 1999–2000, the Kings went relatively quiet; their only notable transaction was the acquisition of former Orlando Magic shooting guard Nick Anderson. They finished 8th in the Western Conference with a respectable 44–38 record and were matched up with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Once again, however, the Kings failed to advance, losing the series 2–3 against the Lakers.
The following season, the Kings traded starting small forward Corliss Williamson to the Toronto Raptors for shooting guard Doug Christie, a move made to improve the subpar defense. They also drafted Turkish power forward Hedo Turkoglu, further improving their bench rotation. Stojakovic moved into the starting small forward role, where he and Webber proved to complement each other extremely well, and as the Kings continued to improve, their popularity steadily rose, culminating in a February 2001 Sports Illustrated cover story entitled "The Greatest Show on Court" with Williams, Christie, Stojakovic, Webber, and Divac gracing the cover. That year, they went 55–27, their best in 40 years. In the playoffs, they won their first series in 20 years, defeating the Phoenix Suns three games to one, before being swept in the second round by the Lakers, who eventually won the NBA Championship.
In July 2001, the Kings made a major move. Jason Williams was traded, along with Nick Anderson, to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Mike Bibby and Brent Price. Despite Williams's often spectacular play, the Kings had grown tired of his recklessness and turnovers; Bibby would provide much more stability and control at the point guard position. This move was complemented by the re-signing of Webber to a maximum-salary contract, securing their superstar long term. With Bibby taking over for Williams, they had their best season to date in 2001–02. Though not as exciting or flashy as they had been in previous years with Williams, the team became much more effective and disciplined with Bibby at the helm. They finished with a league-best record of 61–21, winning 36 of 41 at home. After easily winning their first two playoff matchups against the Stockton and Malone-led Jazz and the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks, respectively, the Kings went on to play the archrival and two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, regarded as one of the greatest playoff matchups in history. In a controversial series, the Kings lost in seven games, one game away from what would have been the first NBA Finals and professional sports championship in Sacramento history. This was a crushing blow to the Kings; after losing to their archrivals in a highly controversial series, the team would begin to decline and age in the years that followed. Many commentators and journalists would question the decisions made by the referees during Game 6, specifically that the Lakers were awarded a staggering 27 free throws in the fourth quarter, many of which came from what were in retrospect proved to be no-calls. Following Game 6 even print newspapers began to question the legitimacy of the game. Most notably, the New York Post ran a front cover with a headline entitled "Foul Play"; it also published a related article suggesting that the game was rigged. NBA analyst David Aldridge (then working for ESPN) spoke on the game:
The 2002 Western Conference finals left many fans wondering whether the Kings could have gone on to win a title, and debate would continue for many years after the events of the series. Later, due to allegations raised by former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, the NBA set up a review of the league's officiating. Lawrence Pedowitz, who led the review, concluded that while Game 6 featured poor officiating, there was no concrete evidence that the game had been fixed.
The Kings went 59–23 and won the division during the following season, seeking to avenge their playoff loss to the Lakers. After easily dispatching the Stockton and Malone-led Jazz in the first round and winning Game 1 against the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks in the second round, the Kings appeared to be on the brink of another Western Conference Finals berth. However, Chris Webber sustained a devastating knee injury in Game 2, and the Kings lost in a gut-wrenching seven-game series. Webber's knee required major surgery. He returned mid-season in 2003–04 a season in which the Kings were seeking another chance to avenge their playoff loss to the Lakers, but without his quickness and athleticism, which had been the focal point of his style of play, it wasn't the same. Despite that, the Kings still managed to defeat the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks in the first round and after winning Game 1 against the Kevin Garnett-led Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round, the Kings appeared to be on the brink of their second Western Conference Finals berth in three years, but unfortunately the Kings ended the season on a sour note with a heartbreaking defeat to the Kevin Garnett-led Minnesota Timberwolves in a hard fought seven game series.
The 2004–05 season marked change for the Kings, who lost three starters from the famed 2002 team. In the off-season of 2004, Divac signed with the Lakers, which prompted the Kings to sign Brad Miller to start at center. Early in the season, Christie was traded to the Orlando Magic for Cuttino Mobley, and in February, Webber was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for three forwards (Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas, and Brian Skinner). Thomas and Skinner failed in their attempt to replicate Webber's impact, and as a result the team's record suffered. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Seattle SuperSonics. The 2005 off-season continued with changes, when they traded fan-favorite Bobby Jackson for Bonzi Wells and acquired free agent Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
The 2005–06 season started poorly since the Kings had a hard time establishing team chemistry. Newcomers Wells and Abdur-Rahim made major contributions early, but both were injured and missed a significant number of games. As the Kings' season continued, general manager Petrie decided to make a major move. Stojakovic was traded for Ron Artest, a talented yet volatile forward known for his temper. Despite doubts that he would be able to replace the huge production of Stojakovic, Artest and the Kings went 20–9 after the 2006 NBA All-Star break, the second best post-All-Star break record that season. Despite a winning record of 44–38, it was clear that they were not the same team of years past. The Kings were seeded 8th in the Western Conference playoffs and were matched up in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. Though the Kings were surprisingly competitive, the Spurs eliminated them 4–2. This was the end of their era of competitiveness and to date, their last winning season. The 2006 off-season began with the disturbing news that head coach Rick Adelman's contract would not be renewed. The Kings named Eric Musselman as his replacement.
In 2006–07, the disappointing play of the Kings was coupled with the distraction of legal troubles. Coach Eric Musselman pleaded no contest to DUI charges early in the season, while Artest got into trouble for neglect of his dogs, and was later accused of domestic assault. The Kings relieved Artest of basketball duties, pending investigation, then later reinstated him. They finished the season 33–49 (their worst in 9 years) which landed them in fifth place in the Pacific Division. They posted a losing record (20–21) at home for the first time since 1993–94. Their season included a seven-game losing-streak that lasted from January 4 to January 19. The Kings missed the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the first time in eight seasons. Musselman was fired in April. The Kings' future appeared to rest on the shoulders of Kevin Martin, who was a lead candidate for 2007 NBA Most-Improved Player of the Year.
The 2007 off season was a time of change. Head coach Musselman was replaced by former Kings player, Reggie Theus. The Kings selected Spencer Hawes with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. In addition, they acquired Mikki Moore from the New Jersey Nets. Martin signed a contract worth $55 million, extending his period with the team for five more years. The Kings lost key players over the off-season, with backup Ronnie Price leaving for the Utah Jazz, and Corliss Williamson retiring.
They claimed fourth-year Beno Udrih off waivers from Minnesota. Udrih quickly assumed the starting position for an injured Bibby. It was announced in February that the Kings had traded Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks for Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson, Shelden Williams, Lorenzen Wright and a 2nd round draft pick. The move was presumably made to clear cap space. Bibby had been last player from the Kings team that reached the Western Conference Finals in 2002.
The Kings improved by 5 games and finished the 2007–08 season 38–44, and missed the playoffs by a bigger margin (12 games) than the previous season (8 games). They went 26–15 at home and 12–29 on the road. After selling out every home game since 1999, the 2007–08 season sold out only three games at ARCO Arena with attendance averaging 13,500 fans per home game, almost 4,000 below capacity.
Following a quiet 2008 off-season, it was confirmed on July 29, 2008 that the Kings would trade Artest and the rights to Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Sean Singletary to the Houston Rockets in exchange for former King Bobby Jackson, Donté Greene, a future first round draft pick, and cash considerations for Rashad McCants and center Calvin Booth.
Reggie Theus was fired in the middle of the 2008–09 season, giving way to Kenny Natt as the interim head coach. The Kings continued to struggle under Natt, ending up with the NBA's worst record for the 2008–09 season at 17–65. On April 23, 2009, Kings' Vice President Geoff Petrie announced the firing of Natt and his four assistants, Rex Kalamian, Jason Hamm, Randy Brown and Bubba Burrage.
Despite having the best odds to win the top overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, the Kings obtained the 4th overall pick, the lowest they could possibly pick, to the outrage of many fans. Along with new head coach Paul Westphal, they selected Tyreke Evans. With the 23rd pick, they selected Omri Casspi from Israel.
On April 27, 2010, Evans was the first Sacramento era player to receive the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Evans also became the 4th player in NBA history, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James, to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game as a rookie.
On June 24, 2010, the Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins with the 5th pick of the 2010 NBA draft. They also selected Hassan Whiteside, with the 33rd pick of the 2010 NBA draft.
Despite the excellent play of Cousins and Evans, both of whom were front-runners in Rookie of the Year voting and received All-Rookie First Team honors, the Kings still ranked near the bottom of the NBA, going 25–57 in Evans' rookie year, and 24–58 in Cousins' rookie year. Much of this was due to the poor fit of the roster around Evans and Cousins, and the uninspired coaching of Westphal.
The 2010–11 season was marked with uncertainty towards the end of the season. Frustrated by the lack of progress towards an arena and dwindling profits from other businesses, the Maloofs sought an immediate relocation of the franchise to Anaheim. The move seemed certain towards the end of the year, with Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds emotionally signing off at the final home game vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. But after a vote by the NBA board of Governors, the relocation effort was ended, to the glee of the fans.
In the 2011 NBA draft the Kings traded for the draft rights of Jimmer Fredette in a three-team deal with the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Kings receiving John Salmons sending Beno Udrih. This move was heavily panned by fans and media; by moving down in the draft and losing longtime starter Udrih for the unproductive Salmons, most found it difficult to find a bright spot in the deal. Westphal would shortly be fired, with Warriors assistant Keith Smart hired as his replacement. Around this time, the team took the slogan "Here we rise!" for its marketing campaign. Amidst various relocation rumors and locker room tensions, the Kings had yet another unsuccessful season. One of their few bright spots was rookie Isaiah Thomas. Due to criticisms about his height (5'9" in shoes) and playmaking ability, Thomas slipped to the 60th and final pick of the draft. Despite this, and the presence of college superstar Fredette, Thomas earned the starting spot, finishing the season with averages of 11 points and 4 assists per game and earned a selection to the NBA All-Rookie team. In the 2012 NBA draft they selected Thomas Robinson out of Kansas.
Because of an unproductive rookie season by Robinson, he was traded with Francisco García and Tyler Honeycutt to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich.
On May 16, 2013, the Maloof family reached agreement to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group led by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé for a then-record NBA franchise valuation of $535 million. Ranadivé, 55, named Raj Bhathal, 71, founder of Tustin-based Raj Manufacturing, one of the largest swimwear companies in the nation, as one of the investors in a consortium to buy a majority stake in the Kings from the franchise's longtime owners, the Maloof family, for a reported $348 million. The group fought off a rival bid that would have moved the team to Seattle after the NBA's Board of Governors rejected investor Chris Hansen's bid to relocate the team. The new owners intend to keep the team in Sacramento. On May 28, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale, ending several years of efforts by other cities to take possession and move the Kings out of Sacramento. On May 31, 2013, the Kings closed escrow, finalizing the sale to the Ranadivé group at a record valuation of $534 million, beginning a new era for the franchise. Plans were already underway to move forward on an arena, as the Downtown Plaza was reportedly being sold to the Sacramento ownership group. A month later, on July 30, Turner Construction was selected to be the builder of the arena.
Once the sale had closed and ownership was transferred to Ranadivé, the Kings began making changes to the management and staff. Geoff Petrie and Keith Smart were released; Mike Malone and Pete D'Alessandro were brought in to replace them. Corliss Williamson, Brendan Malone, Chris Jent, and Dee Brown were brought in as assistant coaches. On July 10, NBA executive Chris Granger was hired as team president. On September 23, 2013, Shaquille O'Neal purchased a minority share of the team, jokingly dubbing the team's new organization the "Shaqramento Kings".
These hires coincided several roster moves. In the 2013 NBA draft on June 27, the Kings selected Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, who was widely projected to go top-five, with the seventh overall pick. They also selected point guard and former McDonald's All-American Ray McCallum, Jr. from the University of Detroit with the 36th pick. One week later, on July 5, the Kings sent former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Pelicans in a three-team deal involving Robin Lopez, Greivis Vásquez, Jeff Withey, Terrel Harris, and picks. On July 9, the Kings traded a future second-round draft pick to the Bucks in exchange for defensive small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and on July 15, the Kings signed Carl Landry, who had played a stint with the team in its previous ownership, to a 4-year deal worth $28 million.
The 2013–14 season was widely anticipated by Kings fans. Playing their first game on October 30, against the Nuggets, the Kings won 90–88, despite being without projected starters Landry and Mbah a Moute. They were led by a 30-point, 14 rebound performance from DeMarcus Cousins, and a putback dunk by Jason Thompson with under a minute to play which sealed the victory for the Kings.
After the poor play of starting forwards John Salmons and Patrick Patterson through November, the Kings sought a change. On November 26, newly acquired Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was traded for power forward Derrick Williams. Nearly two weeks later, on December 8, they acquired Rudy Gay in a blockbuster seven-player deal that sent the struggling Patterson and Salmons to Toronto along with Chuck Hayes and off-season acquisition Greivis Vásquez. Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray were also sent to the Kings. The organization sought to add depth to their lineup during the 2014 off-season to complement the Kings' star duo DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Sacramento added Darren Collison, Ryan Hollins and Ramon Sessions through free agency signings, as well as drafting Nik Stauskas prior to the start of the 2014–15 season.
After an 11–13 start to the 2014–15 season, head coach Michael Malone was fired by the Sacramento Kings organization. Tyrone Corbin filled in for the Kings until Hall of Fame coach George Karl replaced him in February 2015.
On January 30, 2015, DeMarcus Cousins was named to replace the injured Kobe Bryant as a Western Conference All-Star in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. Cousins' selection marked the first time a Kings player earned All-Star honors since Brad Miller and Peja Stojaković represented Sacramento in 2004.
On March 3, 2015, the Kings announced former Sacramento center Vlade Divac as the new vice president of basketball operations. Following the end of Sacramento's 29–53 season for 2014–15, The Kings made aggressive off-season moves in drafting Willie Cauley-Stein and acquiring Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli, and Caron Butler in preparation for the 2015–16 season.
On April 14, 2016, after a 33-49 season, the Kings fired head coach George Karl. Karl compiled a record of 44-68 with the Kings.
The 2016–17 season brought several changes. The Kings moved into their new facility, the Golden 1 Center. On May 9, 2016, the Kings hired former Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joeger as head coach. During the 2016 NBA draft, the Kings traded the 8th pick to the Phoenix Suns for the 13th and 28th pick in the draft, as well as the rights to Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanović. Later in the evening, the Kings traded Marco Belinelli to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the 22nd pick in the draft. The Kings selected four players in the 2016 NBA draft – Greek center Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick, Syracuse shooting guard Malachi Richardson with the 22nd pick, Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere with the 28th pick, and Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins with the 59th pick. In free agency, the Kings signed Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple, Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, and Ty Lawson.
On February 20, 2017, the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins, alongside Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and two future draft picks.
The initial Rochester Royals logo featured a blue and white shield with the word "ROCHESTER" on the top, with a white banner with the word "ROYALS" on it. From the beginning the road uniforms were blue with the city name written in front, while home uniforms were white with the team name written in front. Red accents were added later in their Rochester tenure.
Upon moving to Cincinnati in 1957, the team logo became a basketball with a cartoon face. The basketball was depicted as wearing a crown with the city of Cincinnati within it. The word "CINCINNATI" was featured above the logo while the word "ROYALS" was below. The crown also had the team name on it. This logo was white with blue outlines. The uniforms remained blue on the road and white at home, again with red accents and the city/team name designation on the respective uniforms.
In the late 1960s the Royals wore a uniform with the team name written vertically on the left side, with the number on the right. In 1971, the team would adopt a red crown with a blue half-basketball below it. The word "CINCINNATI", in blue, was placed above the logo. The word "ROYALS", in white, was placed on the crown. The logo change also reflected on the uniforms, now featuring a script 'Royals' in front with red numbers. However, blue names and numbers at home, and white names and numbers on the road were written at the back of the uniform, with the unusual arrangement of the number above the name being used for the first time.
For the 1972–73 season, the renamed and relocated Kansas City-Omaha Kings kept their uniforms and logos, with the exception of the name change. After settling in Kansas City for good in 1975, the Kings changed their road uniforms back to reading the city name in front. Beginning with the 1981–82 season, the road uniforms reverted to the team name in front, while numbers in front took on the same color schemes as the numbers in the back.
Following their move from Kansas City in 1985 the Kings still used the same color scheme of red, white and blue. The logo of a crown atop a bottom half of the basketball was also carried over. However, the shades of blue used on their home and road uniforms were different for five seasons. The home uniforms use royal blue, while the road uniforms use powder blue. The striping patterns were also different between the two uniforms, with the script "Kings" wordmark on the sides of the road shorts, and basic side stripes on the home uniforms. Carrying over from Kansas City was the unusual placing of player names at the bottom of the number at the front of the uniforms
The uniforms changed slightly in 1990, with royal blue now used on the road; the shorts now incorporate the Kings logo, and the name and number switch places to a more standard basketball jersey. The player names were now in a standard monotone serif font which was used by several NBA teams. This version would mark the last time the classic script "Kings" wordmark was used until 2005.
In 1994, the Kings radically changed their look, adopting a new color scheme of purple, silver, black and white. The uniform set consists of one wide side stripe running through the right leg of the shorts, with the primary Kings logo prominently featured. The home uniform is in white, while the road uniform is in black (by later coincidence, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings would use that exact color scheme). From 1994 to 1997, a half-purple, half-black uniform, featuring checkerboard side panels, was used as an alternate uniform, which was panned by fans. However, the uniform was revived for the 2012–13 season during Hardwood Classics Nights. A new purple uniform, which shares the same template from the home and road uniforms, was introduced in the 1997–98 season.
Before the start of the 2002–03 NBA season, the Kings changed their uniforms once again. This set included a modernized version of the "Kings" script on the home jersey, and the city name on the purple road jersey. The side stripes now run through the uniform. In the 2005–06 season they introduced a gold alternate uniform, featuring the classic script "Kings" wordmark. However, this alternate lasted only two seasons.
In 2008, the team introduced a new style of uniforms, with the names switching designations with a modernized "Kings" script on the road jersey in black text, and "Sacramento" on the home jersey still in white text. In doing this, the Kings became unique; most professional franchises place the team nickname on the home jerseys and the city name on the road jerseys. The numbers are black on both uniforms. The side panels were revamped, now only featured on the shorts and at the top half of the uniform. Before the 2011–12 season a black alternate uniform was introduced, sharing the same template as the home and road uniforms, but with the classic script "Kings" wordmark and silver numbers.
For the 2014–15 season, the Kings made a few tweaks to their home and away uniforms. While the team kept the 2008-era template, they brought back the 1994–2002 "Kings" script from the primary logo on both uniforms, along with purple (home) and white (away) numbers. The black alternate uniform was kept without any alterations. In addition, the crown logo at the back was replaced by the NBA logo, while a gold tab above it represents the franchise's 1951 NBA championship. The team announced it would wear an updated version of the powder blue 1985–90 uniforms 10 times during the season, including at the last home game at Sleep Train Arena, April 9 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For the 2016–17 season, the Kings are changing their brand once more, adopting a logo reminiscent of their 1971–1994 design and dispatching of the black from their logo while keeping the purple and silver. The Kings unveiled their new uniforms on June 15, 2016, featuring four different designs. Both the home white and purple away uniforms feature a modernized "Kings" script, an updated crown on top, and gray side stripes. The so-called 'City' uniforms are similar to the away uniforms, except that the abbreviation "SAC" in gray appears in front. The black 'Global' uniforms substitute the crown for a standing lion crest on top, along with a solid gray side stripe on the right and the primary logo on the left leg. All uniforms feature a baby blue collar, stitches, and tab that says "Sacramento Proud", a nod to the franchise's first few seasons in Sacramento.
Beginning with the 2017–2018 season, the jerseys will be sponsored by Blue Diamond Growers.
Since the 1997–98 season, the official Kings mascot is Slamson the Lion. Previous to that, the Kings mascot was "The Gorilla."Edgerton Park Arena (1949–1954)
Rochester War Memorial (1955–1957)
Cincinnati Gardens (1957–1972)
Kansas City Municipal Auditorium (1972–1974)
Omaha Civic Auditorium (1972–1978)
Kemper Arena (1974–1985)
ARCO Arena I (1985–1988)
Sleep Train Arena (formerly ARCO Arena II/Power Balance Pavilion) (1988–2016)
Golden 1 Center (2016–present)
Prior to moving to Ohio, the Royals' biggest rival was the Syracuse Nationals. That team went on to become the Philadelphia 76ers. This left upstate New York without a team until the Buffalo Braves were established in 1970. This third attempt did not last, with the Braves moving to San Diego, California in 1978 to become the San Diego Clippers.
In 1970, the Cleveland Cavaliers were established. This brought a new rival for the Royals, as well as a new team in Ohio. This rivalry did not last, and the Royals moved to Kansas City only a few years later. Although the NBA previously had a team in St. Louis, Missouri in the form of the St. Louis Hawks, that team moved to Atlanta in 1968, thus preventing a potential new rivalry for the Kings. This made the Kings the first team in the state in four years. 13 years later, the Kings moved to California, leaving Missouri without a team.
The rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers began when the Kings traded for Chris Webber in 1998. Featuring matchups such as Vlade Divac vs. Shaquille O'Neal, it became one of the most competitive in the NBA, climaxing when the two teams met in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. From that point on, injuries and trades would dull the rivalry, though it has begun to emerge again with the Kings drafting center DeMarcus Cousins, and the Lakers trading for center Dwight Howard. Both teams, however, have had a lack of success, with the Kings failing to make the playoffs and the Lakers being swept in the first round as the number 7 seed in the 2013 playoffs and losing many of their star players to injuries (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash) or free agency (Howard to the Houston Rockets) in the following season.
The Kings hold the draft rights to the following unsigned draft picks who have been playing outside the NBA. A drafted player, either an international draftee or a college draftee who isn't signed by the team that drafted him, is allowed to sign with any non-NBA teams. In this case, the team retains the player's draft rights in the NBA until one year after the player's contract with the non-NBA team ends. This list includes draft rights that were acquired from trades with other teams.
Notes:1 The home of the Sacramento Kings from 1988 to 2016.
2 Archibald and Robertson were named two of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
3 1970–1972 Cincinnati, 1972–1976 Kansas City.
4 All in Sacramento.
5 All in Rochester.
6 1955–1957 Rochester, suffered a career-ending injury in 1957–58, the team's first season in Cincinnati.
7 All in Cincinnati.
8 Stojaković is currently working for the Sacramento Kings as the director of player personnel.
9 Divac is the team's current general manager.
10 1955–1957 in Rochester, 1957–1966 in Cincinnati.
11 1970–1972 in Cincinnati, 1972–1981 in Kansas City.
The 2005 Sacramento Monarchs WNBA Champions banner, as well as the Monarchs 2006 Western Conference Champions banner, also hang from the rafters of Sleep Train Arena.
Notes:1 Inducted as player. Never played for the Kings.