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The Kansas City Kings were a professional basketball team that played in the mid-west division of the NBA between 1972 and 1985. The Kings pioneered today’s All-Star Game uniform design, which features the player’s surname under his number. They were based at the Kemper Arena, though they initially played home games at the Kansas City Municipal Arena and Omaha Civic Auditorium.
How Did The Kansas City Kings Start Up?
The team had existed before as the Rochester Seagrams and Royals (1923-1957) and later Cincinnati Royals (1975-1972). Before 1972 the Cincinnati Royals had been in rapid decline with match attendance and team performance plummeting. In 1972, the owners decided to move the franchise to Kansas City and it was renamed “Kansas-Omaha Kings”. Home games were initially divided between Kansas City and Omaha until 1975 when the team moved exclusively into the new 16,785 seat Kemper Arena in Kansas, dropping “Omaha” from its name.
The Kansas City Kings in Competition:
Despite the exploits of club legend Nate Archibald, the 1972/1973 season finished last with a 36-46 record. Following a 6-19 start to the 1973/ 1974 season in which Archibald was sidelined with injury, Coach Bob Cousy was fired and Phil Johnson took his place. The team made the playoffs in 1974/1975, falling to the Chicago Bulls in six games. The finished third in 1976 with a 31-51 record.
The seasons following Archibald’s sale at the close of the 1976 season were largely underwhelming leading to the firing of Coach Phil Johnson in 1978. He was replaced by Larry Staverman for the remainder of the season but the Kings finished last as 31-51.Larry Staverman was fired.
New Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons engineered a resurgence of sorts as they made it to the playoffs three seasons in a row before slumping to a 30-53 record season in 1982. In 1981, they had made an improbable run to the Western Conference Finals, which they lost to the Houston Rockets. They made it to the playoffs again in 1983/1984 but failed to make significant inroads as they were dismissed in three straight losses to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fitzsimmons was sacked and replaced by Jack McKinley, who was himself swiftly replaced by the returning Phil Johnson. However, the Kings finished last in their final season with a 31-51 record.
Notable Moments in the Kings’ History:
A year after they stopped playing in Omaha, the roof to the Kemper Arena caved after a freak storm with 70 MPH winds swept through Kansas City, perhaps giving Omaha residents a sense of atonement. They were forced to play most of the season at the Municipal Auditorium, although their performance was not adversely affected by the enforced relocation as they made the playoffs that season.
In 1980/1981 they made a fairytale run to the Western Conference Finals despite finishing the regular season with a 40-42. In the semis, they were matched up against the Phoenix Suns whom they barely edged past in game 7 on the road. This represented undoubtedly the Kansas Kings’ best performance in their 13-year existence.
Notable Kansas City Kings Players:
Nate Archibald was most definitely the standout star of the Kings between 1972 and 1976. In his inaugural season with the Kings, he stated his intent by becoming the first ever player to lead the NBA scoring and assists, averaging 34 points and 11.4 assists per game. He moved on to New York Knicks, later enjoyed considerable success with Boston Celtics. He was selected for the NBA All Star roster six times during his career.
Sam Lacey played centre for the Kings between 1972 and 1982. In his first six years, he averaged a double double and made the All-Star team in 1985 when he recorded 11.5 points and 14.2 rebounds per game. He was part of the Kansas City setup during their best years including the 1979 team that won the Midwest Division and the 1981 team that reached the Western Conference final. His jersey No.44 was retired by the Sacramento Kings, the successor franchise to the Kansas City Kings.
What Happened to the Kansas City Kings?
During their stay in Kansas, the Kings had failed to record any notable success and their fan base kept on diminishing. During the 1984/1985 season, fan attendance at the Kemper Arena often dipped below 4,000. On 14th April 1985 they played what turned out to be their last game in front of 11, 371 fans. Two days later, the NBA Board announced their approval to allow the Kings owners to relocate to Sacramento. The team now became the Sacramento Kings and changed their uniform from royal blue to powder blue.