By Lorenzo Tanos
So it's official – the Sacramento Kings will not be moving to Seattle and becoming the next-generation Supersonics. For the people of SacTown and the California capital's mayor, former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson, this is all good news, though the team hasn't tasted too many wins as of late. Before the Kings moved to California, the team was known as the Rochester Royals, and had actually started out as one of the NBL and BAA's better teams. Here are some trivia questions covering the Kings' well-travelled NBA history, starting from Rochester, all the way to the present in Sacramento.
1. Which Hall of Fame NFL quarterback played briefly for the Rochester Royals back when they were playing in the National Basketball League?
In the first half of the '50s, Otto Graham was one of the NFL's finest quarterbacks, playing for the Paul Brown-coached Cleveland Browns. However, he was also a skilled forward/guard for Northwestern University, and that drew him to the NBL's Rochester Royals for the 1945-46 season. Graham averaged 5.2 ppg for a team that would win the 1946 NBL championship, before moving on to the AAFC, and later on the NFL as the Browns' quarterback.
2. Which Royals forward/center saw his promising NBA career end after just three seasons due to a career-ending brain injury?
This one's easy if you know your '50s basketball. Maurice Stokes was an immediate hit in the NBA, a 6'7” player who could do just about anything on the court. He could play forward, center or guard, and in three seasons, he averaged 16.4 ppg, 17.3 rpg and 5.3 apg. Stokes was permanently paralyzed few days after he hit his head on the floor in the last game of the 1957-58 regular season, and would notably be cared for by his friend and teammate (and future Hall of Famer) Jack Twyman. Stokes was only 36 when he died of a heart attack in 1970.
3. How many territorial picks did the Royals have in the '60s, prior to the removal of the territorial rule in 1966?
The Cincinnati Bearcats were an NCAA basketball powerhouse in the '60s, which pretty much gave the hometown Royals a huge advantage when it came to the NBA Draft, thanks to the territorial rule. All in all, four players – Bearcats stars Oscar Robertson, Tom Thacker and George Wilson, plus Ohio State's Jerry Lucas – were territorial picks in the '60s for the Royals. Robertson and Lucas would go on to the Basketball Hall of Fame, while Thacker and Wilson were largely considered busts.
4. When did the Royals officially become known as the Kings?
It was in 1972-73 when the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City after years of trying – and failing – to outdo the Boston Celtics and later on, the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks, in the NBA's Eastern Division. The team, which was officially known as Kansas City-Omaha, was renamed the Kings, due to Kansas City already having an MLB team known as the Royals.
5. Which current head coach got his start in the NBA as a reserve combo guard for the Kansas City-Omaha Kings who specialized in defense?
It's very ironic that Mike D'Antoni was known as a defensive specialist as an NBA player, considering the premium he often puts on offense as an NBA coach. D'Antoni was a skilled ball-hawk, averaging around three steals per 36 minutes in his four-year NBA/ABA career, and he wasn't much of a scorer at all; his best season came as a rookie, when he averaged 4.8 ppg in 19 minutes of action. Again, talk about ironies.
6. True or False – Joe Kleine was the last-ever first-round draft pick selected by the Kings while they were still based in Kansas City.
False. As the Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985, which was the same year Kleine was drafted, Otis Thorpe was Kansas City's final first-rounder, as he was selected ninth overall in 1984. Unlike Kleine, who disappointed as a journeyman backup center, Thorpe was a one-time All-Star and a solid starter for most of his 17-year NBA career.
7. Which Hall of Fame center coached the Kings for 58 games in the 1987-88 season?
Though he won two championships as the Boston Celtics' head coach (1968, 1969), Bill Russell didn't have much success as the Seattle Supersonics' head coach in the mid-'70s. He had even less success with the Kings in 1987-88; he went 17-41 with Sacramento before being replaced by Jerry Reynolds.
8. True or False – The Kings had the best record in the NBA in the 2001-02 season.
True. Not only was 2001-02 the best season in Royals/Kings history since the days of Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer and Arnie Risen in Rochester, it also saw them post an all-time record for number of wins in a season. Additionally, the Kings had the best record in the NBA, but would eventually fall short in the Western Conference Finals, losing a hard-fought seven-game series to their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Starting (and starring) for the Kings in 2001-02 were Chris Webber, PejaStojakovic, Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie.
9. Which kin of former NBA players/coaches had briefly helmed the Kings as they returned to mediocrity in the late 2000s?
For the 2006-07 season, the Kings were coached by Eric Musselman, son of the abrasive and controversial ex-Cavs/T-Wolves coach Bill Musselman. The younger Musselman lasted just one season, going 33-49. And in 2008-09, Kenny Natt went 11-47 as interim head coach; he didn't play much in the NBA, but his brother Calvin was one of the better small forwards in the NBA back in the '80s.
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