Valley of the Kings

Let’s not get carried away with this.

On second thought, let’s. We’re talking about what everybody else is talking about—this year’s NBA Western Conference champions, the Sacramento Kings, headed into the post-season with a league-best 61-21 record and the much-coveted home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. How good are the Kings? They’ve won three out of every four games they’ve played this season, and when they’re on, nobody, not even the dreaded Lakers, can touch them. We could very well be talking about the next NBA champs.

Sacramento Kings, world champions. That’s a tonic that could go a long way toward treating the River City’s chronic low self-esteem. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the phrase “world-class city” was frequently held up as the basket Sacramento ought to be shooting for. A lot of bricks have clanged off the rim since then, and Sacramentans, long-tired of the region’s low shooting percentage, have had only petty provincialism with which to soothe themselves.

“Things could be worse,” they say. “We could be living in Fresno.”

A Kings victory in the NBA finals could change all that. Don’t ask us or anybody else how or why, because nobody really knows. It’s one of life’s intangibles. You fall asleep in the land that time forgot, you wake up in the Valley of the Kings, where even ghetto playgrounds are adorned with golden hoops. It’s a heady elixir, one that will not soon wear off. Who had ever heard of Seattle or Portland before the teams from those respective cities had each won an NBA championship? Yet now each city is annually held up as a “place to be.”

A coincidence? Perhaps. But we aren’t inclined to leave the matter to chance. For our part, as a first concession, we take back what we said about building a new stadium downtown a couple of weeks ago. Now is not the time for negativity. Once the championship is in hand, we’ll gladly pay for the new arena ourselves, with the increased advertising revenue a Kings victory is bound to bring. We also urge the Maloofs to bring back the male contingent of Royal Court Dancers. You really hurt their feelings booting them off like that, not to mention engendering bad karma for the team.

Finally, and most importantly, let’s all collectively pray that Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe doesn’t miraculously heal itself before the Lakers meet the Kings for the Western Conference Finals. In fact, let’s pass a law mandating such prayer by every man, woman and child in the four-county area, three times a day, in the direction of Arco Arena or wherever that night’s game is being played. The million-dollar metatarsal: Shaq’s big toe. It’s the one thing standing between Sacramento being just better than Fresno and Sacramento being a world-class city, a place to be.

Which is to say it’s OK to get carried away with all this Kings hoopla. Just don’t take it too far.