The Sacramento Kings are a professional basketball team based in Sacramento, California, United States. The Kings are members of the National Basketball Association (NBA). As of 2010, the Kings are the only team in the Big Four sports leagues located in the city of Sacramento, where they have played since 1985.
The franchise that would become the Sacramento Kings initially started in the city of Rochester, New York, as the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League.
In the early 1920s, the team was a semi/pro group sponsored by a local Seagram’s distillery. The team was known as the Rochester Seagrams for over two decades. Pro basketball 1920/1940 folded many a strictly pro operation, but the sponsored Seagrams stayed afloat as others fell by the wayside during the Great Depression. Under the watch of Hall Of Famer Les Harrison, the team grew in talent, hosted increasingly better competition, and became a greater local treasure as years went by.
At the conclusion of World War II, the National Basketball League, was returning to success after waiting out the War Years. It was looking to add successful operations to its circuit, and Rochester was a natural candidate.
The team had changed its name to the Rochester Pros, and moved to the 4500/seat Edgarton Sports Arena in 1942. Invited to join the NBL for the 1945/46 season, Les Harrison and brother Jack parted ways with sponsor Seagram’s, who doubted the team would profit from the jump. The team then held a rename the team contest in Rochester’s largest newspaper. The winner was 15/year old Richard Paeth for his entry, the “Royals.”
Success for the Royals was almost immediate. Founded in 1945 by owner coach general manager Les Harrison (Hall of Famer) and his brother and co owner business manager Jack Harrison, the team won the NBL championship in 1945/46, its very first year in the circuit.
The team was led by Bob Davies, Al Cervi, George Glamack, and Otto Graham, a future NFL Hall of Famer, who, in his only season in professional basketball, won a league championship before moving on to football and leading the Cleveland Browns to ten straight championship games, winning seven.
Additionally, the Royals had doubled the original investment of the Harrisons in just one season. Playing numerous exhibitions in addition to the NBL schedule, the team was arguably at its Rochester peak in 1946.
The following season, NBL Governors voted that the regular season “Pennant Winner” would be declared as the official NBL Champion, and the post/season would consist of a separate, non/championship tournament. The Royals finished 31/13 (.705), capturing their second NBL Championship in as many years, but lost in the post/season tournament finals to George Mikan and the Chicago American Gears.
The following season the NBL scrapped their one year “pennant” experiment, and from that point forward the post season playoffs would determine the NBL Champion. The Royals again finished with the league’s best overall record at 44/16, but lost to George Mikan’s new team, the Minneapolis Lakers, 3 games to 1 in the NBL Finals.
The countless exhibitions, plus the season schedules, had worn the team down by 1948, with injuries figuring in the 1947 and 1948 NBL Finals. The team added Bobby Wanzer, a Seton Hall recruit made by Davies, to replace Cervi, among other roster moves. The team’s strong reputation also soon made it part of the NBL / BAA merger.
In 1948, the Royals moved to the Basketball Association of America along with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers, and Indianapolis (Kautskys) Jets. A year later, the BAA merged with the remaining NBL teams to become the National Basketball Association.
The move to the BAA took away Rochester’s profitable exhibition schedule, and placed it in the same Western Division that Minneapolis was in. Of the two best teams in pro basketball, only one of them could play in the league finals, 1949/1954. Minneapolis, with Mikan, was almost always a little better at playoff time than the Royals. With their smallish arena and now/limited schedule, the Royals became less profitable even as Harrison maintained a remarkably high standard for the team, which finished no lower than second in its division, 1945/1954. He would spend much of the 1950s looking for a buyer for his team as debts mounted.
The Royals won the NBA title in 1951 by defeating the New York Knickerbockers 4 games to 3. It is the only NBA championship in the franchise’s history to date. But the victory did not translate into profit for the franchise. The roster completely turned over in 1955, with only Wanzer remaining, and the team moved to the larger Rochester Memorial. Now a losing team filled with rookies, the Royals still did not turn a profit. Meanwhile the NBA was putting pressure on Harrison to sell or relocate his team to a larger city. With this in mind, the 1956/57 season was the Royals’ last in Rochester.
The Royals’ twelve year stay in Rochester featured the services of nine future members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, one member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a Hollywood Walk of Famer: Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Alex Hannum, Les Harrison, Red Holzman, Arnie Risen, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, Bobby Wanzer, Otto Graham, and Chuck Connors.
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