Has anyone seen Kevin Johnson’s Sacramento arena plan? Does anyone know if it actually exists? Has anything been written down? Drawn up? Are there blueprints? Has a location been settled upon? What the hell is the deal here?!
As the mayor of his hometown, Johnson has held press conferences on consecutive days to let the world know two important things:
1) He has a plan, which allegedly involves a lot of money and a new arena, to save the Kings.
2) That plan involves at least 21 investors, some of whom are whales.
Unfortunately, neither of those nuggets of information add up to much substance. Which leads everyone to believe that Johnson may just be talking out of his ass to save face in the wake of an inevitable defeat.
Here’s the thing about politicians. When it comes to their careers and their livelihoods, most of them want to climb the proverbial ladder. Climbing that ladder leads to more exposure, more money, and in theory, lends itself to a better life.
Johnson isn’t stupid. The former NBA point guard wants a better life. Everyone wants a better life. It doesn’t matter how great your life is, it can always get better. Even Bill Gates could probably stand to be on the receiving end of a few more BJs, I’d imagine. We’re all human. We want the best, even if the best is entirely unattainable. And so, like many, Kevin Johnson is doing all he can to lead himself to his own little slice of heaven.
In order to get to where he wants to be, Johnson needs to be The Man. And part of being The Man includes appeasing the people. In this case, Johnson’s people are the citizens of Sacramento who don’t want to see their basketball team leave town. It’s up to the 46-year-old Californian to make these people happy. He knows his efforts to save the franchise from relocating might very well be futile. But much like in sports, the end result isn’t nearly as important as the effort given to reach that result. We can’t all be champions. But we can all try. So Kevin Johnson will try.
Johnson may be onto something. Maybe he really does have a great arena plan. Maybe he does have committed investors in place to buy the team. But the fact remains that the Kings are a privately-owned commodity. And the owners of that commodity have already agreed to sell their good to someone else, someone who has every intention of moving that good north. Even if Johnson does everything right, he still can’t force the Maloof brothers, owners of the good that is the Sacramento Kings, to engage a handful of handpicked whales in a transaction.
And that’s just it. This deal has already been agreed upon. To what degree, we don’t really know. Have papers been signed? Maybe. Have all details been finalized? Possibly. If that’s the case, then there’s little else to determine here. In a short while the Kings will vacate Sacramento and become the new Seattle Supersonics. The citizens of Sacramento will be sad, angry, pissed off, heartbroken, all of the above. Johnson, himself, will likely be disheartened. But above all else, those very same citizens will always remember Johnson for his effort. And in turn, they’ll vault his career up the ladder, one rung higher than he would have found himself clinging to had he failed to try.
Kevin Johnson is a politician giving his people what they want. It’s a tried and true formula for political success. Whether he manages to succeed in delivering the people their desired outcome is irrelevant. He understands that, but they may not. And really, they don’t need to. They are buying into what Johnson is selling because it’s the only choice they have. And months from now, when the Sonics are running back and forth across Key Arena’s hardwood floor, Johnson will still exist as a voice of the people, a voice that refused to remain silent right up to the bitter end.
The people of Sacramento will lose their Kings. Seattle sports fans will be the benefactors of Sacramento’s loss. And despite being the man at the helm of a city that watched its NBA franchise exit, Kevin Johnson will still be a winner. Plan or no plan, whales or no whales, he’s a politician playing the game the right way.