Thursday, May 30, 2013

Throwback Thursday: 2002 Sacramento Kings

As I am Typing this the Western Conference Finals is over and the San Antonio Spurs have swept the Memphis Grizzlies. As I was watching this series unfold my mind like it usually does began to to wander off into thinking about one of the most memorable Western conference finals of all-time. I'm speaking about the 2002 edition of the WCF that series featured Chris Webber and the Sacramento Kings who squared of with Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers who were in the midst of starting a dynasty. This is known by many as the most controversial series in NBA history and is the subject of today’s edition of throwback Thursday.

The Back story

Before the series between the Kings and Lakers even got started the records between the two teams read like this. For the Sacramento Kings they were 61-21 with the best record in the west. The Lakers were not to far behind the Kings with a record of 58-24. Although the Kings had the best record in the conference they had a record of 1-3 vs the Lakers in the regular season, so they were still the new kids on the block.

The Stats

Put the two teams players stats side by side and the Top 2 for the Lakers were just a bit better then the top 2 for the Kings.

(Per game stats)

Shaq: 27 Points 10 Rebounds 2 Blocks
Kobe: 25 Points 5 Rebounds 5 Assists 2 steals

Webber: 25 Points 10 Rebounds 5Assists 2 Steals 1 Block
Peja:21 Points 5 Rebounds 1 Steal 41%3-point shooter

Very Evenly matched as far as the top goes with the edge going to the Lakers but where things look very lopsided statistically is within the role players of both these teams. Outside of Kobe and Shaq the Lakers only had 1 play averaging 10 points per game and that was Derek Fisher at 11.2 points per game who back then had enough hair to get a 15$ haircut at the local barbershop.

The Kings on the Other hand had 5 guys beside Chris Webber and Peja who averaged 10 points per game or more (Mike Bibby,Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson,Vlade Divac and Hedo Turkoglu). The highest was Bibby at 14 points per game. My main man Gerald Wallace even averaged 3.8 points per game for that Kings team.The Sacramento Kings certainly had depth on their side.

The Series through 5 games

Through 5 games Sacramento had a 3-2 lead but two things kept this thing from being a short series for the Lakers.

#1 Stealing home-court in game 1

When you bust your tail all season to earn home-court advantage you must never allow the road team to steal that from you and that’s exactly what the Lakers did in game 1 with a 106-99 victory in Sacramento.

#2 Robert Horry Shot In Game 4

Can't forget about Jordan's retirement/Can't forget about Robert Horry's shot to win the game in the finals kid”. Nas stated that very eloquently in his song “Can't forget about you” and Robert Horry Kings fans will never forget about you. Had that shot not went in the Kings could have won this thing in 5 and advanced to the NBA Finals but this shot kept the Lakers alive.

With both of those negatives though the reality was that the Kings still had a 3-2 lead on the defending champs and were just 1 win away from taking the city and the franchise to the finals for the first time ever.........then there was game 6.

Tim Donaghy

Ever heard of referee Tim Donaghy? He was the guy who made bets on games he officiated and would make calls depending on the point spread so he could make money. The former NBA ref even admits that the NBA would effect the outcome of the games using referees. He also admits that he as well as his colleagues were not allowed to call technical fouls or throw out certain star players. Why is this relevant? Because this is the guy who in a report back in 2008 stated that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals was fixed.

Game 6

So it was a beautiful for basketball in LA as the Staples Center crowd was sold out yet again for game 6. At the end of three quarters is was all tied up 75-75 the scoreboard read. The Kings had to win one more quarter to defeat the defending champion Lakers but then controversy struck. The 4th Quarter saw LA take 18 free throws and it was the most lopsided horrible officiating in the history of the league. There is certainly a reason Kings fans and NBA fans both call this a fixed series. In the 4th quarter of a series like this in game 6 you got to swallow the damn whistle so fans can watch the players play, they don't pay to watch free throws but keep this in mind. Shaquille O'neal has always been made fun of for his free throw shooting and in that game 6 he shot 13-17 from the line which is pretty good for him. Kobe went perfect at 11-11, even though the officiating was lopsided they hit most of they're free throws. The Kings missed 7 free throws and lost by 4 points so some of this is on them but the Refs certainly didn't help giving the Lakers all those chances. The Lakers won game 6 by a score of 106-102 and would go onto win the series in 7 games and would go on to capture their 3rd straight NBA title completing the “3 Peat”.

The Legacy

All though that Kings team remains a what if tale they are certainly not forgotten. Many long time NBA fans call them “the real NBA Finals Champions of 2002” and it is a valid argument and an understandable way to feel. We can argue as fans that it was fixed but we will never truly know but I will say this the 2002 Sacramento Kings are the greatest team to never win the NBA Finals so much depth and top level skill they certainly deserved one. So many players like Chris Webber, Mike Bibby,Peja Stoakavic,Doug Christie and Vlade Divac a pretty complete team that played hard night In and night out that wanted to punch you in the mouth and let you know what Sacramento Basketball was all about. I remember when I used to play NBA Live 2005 they were the highest rated team in the game and surely the hardest to beat. Look around Kings games even to this day and in the stands people still sport #4, #16 and #10 jerseys the memory of that Kings team is still fresh in the minds of those loyal fans and for a team that almost relocated this off-season they represent a golden era. Sacramento fans can only hope that they talk about Demarcus Cousins they way they talk about Chris Webber.

Were the Kings victimized of a fixed series? Are they the greatest team to never win the NBA Finals?

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