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The Cincinnati Royals were a pro basketball team that played in the NBA from 1957 to 1972. The Sacramento Kings can trace their history back to the Royals. The team was based at the Cincinnati Gardens Arena.
How did the Cincinnati Royals Begin?
The franchise that became the Cincinnati Royals had been founded in 1923 as the Rochester Seagrams. In 1979, the team, then known as the Rochester Royals relocated to Cincinnati. The Royals nickname stuck and still fit in Cincinnati, which is known as the “Queen City.”
The Royals in Competition
Their first season in action was 1957/58. The team finished in third place with a 33-39 record. They were however swept in two games by the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. The Royals then fell to last place during the next three seasons. They returned to the playoffs in 1961/62 but were eliminated by Detroit pistons in four straight games. The next season, they were shifted from the Western to the Eastern Division. That season they finished in third place with a 42-38 record and went on to win their first playoff series, beating the Syracuse Nationals 3- games to 2. They earned a meet with the mighty Boston Celtics in the Eastern Finals but lost in seven games. In 1963/64, the Royals finished in second place with a 55-25 record thanks to the inspiring combination of Oscar Robertson and new signing George Lucas. They would then beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs in five games to set up a rematch with the Celtics in the Eastern Finals. They were however swept aside in three straight games.
In 1964/65 they finished second again but they could not get past the 76ers once more in the playoffs. After finishing third in the 1965/66 season, the Royals met the Celtics in the playoffs. The Celtics came out on top in the five game series on the way to an historic eighth straight NBA title. The next season, they were again eliminated by the 76ers in the playoffs having finished third with a 39-42 record. For the remaining five seasons, the Royals failed to taste playoff basketball again and following the 1971/72 season, it was announced that the team would relocate.
Cincinnati Royals most Memorable Moments
During their very first season, an unfortunate tragedy struck Royals forward Maurice Stokes. Stokes was one of the most influential players in the regular season of 1957/58 season as he rebounded an average of 18.1 boards per game. During the final game of the regular season against the Minneapolis Lakers, Stokes hit his head on the floor of the Minneapolis court and became unconscious. He however recovered in time for the first playoff game against the Pistons three days later. While on the flight home, he fell ill and was rushed to hospital upon landing and lapsed into a coma. Later he was diagnosed with encephalopathy which made him a permanent quadriplegic. Teammate Jack Twyman stepped forward to help, adopting Stokes and organizing benefit games and golf tournaments to help settle Stokes’ medical bills. Stokes passed away in 1970.
The Royals’ Most notable Players
Oscar Robertson joined the Royals as a Rookie in the 1960 draft and was named rookie of the year that season after averaging 30.5 points, 10.1rebounds and 9.7 assists. He averaged 29.3 points, 10.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game during his ten year stint with Cincinnati.
Jerry Lukas played for the Royals from 1963 to 1969 and completed a strong offensive threesome with Jack Twyman and Oscar Robertson. During that time, he averaged more than 20 points per game in three seasons. He averaged an impressive 19.8 rebounds per game for the Royals.
Jack Twyman stayed on from the Rochester Royals and played with the new team until 1966. During the 1959/60 season, Twyman became the first player along with Wilt Chamberlain to average 30 points per game in a season as he scored 31.2 ppg. Offthe court, Twyman’s gesture towards Maurice Stokes when many felt the ownership had abandoned the tragedy-stricken star touched the hearts of many fans.
Other notable Royals Players include Maurice Stokes, Tiny Archibald and Clyde Lovelette.
What Happened to the Royals?
Towards the tail end of the 1960s, the Royals’ performance dropped significantly and this negatively affected game attendance. In 1971, the Royals were sold for $5 million to a group of investors from Kansas City. The new owners decided to move the team away from Cincinnati following a disappointing 1971/72 season. The Royals relocated to Kansas City and were renamed Kansas City-Omaha Kings.