The Sacramento Kings have officially done it. After 16 seasons, the longest playoff drought in the NBA is over. The Kings officially clinched a playoff spot tonight by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, 120-80. That playoff spot is their first since sneaking in as a No. 8 seed after the 2005-06 season. Since then, the Kings have become synonymous with disappointment in the NBA.
In those 16 seasons they spent in the lottery, the Kings lost a total of 809 games. They had 11 different head coaches and five different heads of basketball operations. Only one King managed to make an All-Star Game, as DeMarcus Cousins did so three times before Domantas Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox did so this season. The streak spanned the ownerships of both the Maloof family and current owner Vivek Ranadive, who purchased the team in 2013 and prevented it from being moved to Seattle.
He took over the team hoping to turn it into a consistent winner. Now, that vision is finally becoming a reality. While the Kings missed the playoffs last season, they made the first of two essential moves needed to lift themselves back into contention when they dealt young star Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers for Sabonis. In the offseason, they made the other key change by hiring Mike Brown as their coach.
Sabonis may earn All-NBA honors for the first time in his career. Brown is the heavy favorite to win Coach of the Year. Fox has grown into a superstar in his own right, and newcomers Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray have all played major roles in the team's ascent to the top of the Western Conference. So, too, has the team's marketing department, as the team's new "light the beam" celebration after victories has become a sort of rallying cry for the Kings in this dream season.
Gotta love these Kings fans chanting Light the Beam on the road. Sacramento has finally made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 pic.twitter.com/Hdxuz5NjYH— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 30, 2023
As meaningful as the end of the streak is, the Kings aren't done. They have all but clinched a top-three seed in the Western Conference and could conceivably jump up to No. 2 in the final days of the season. They will have home-court advantage in at least one postseason series and perhaps two. The Kings don't just want to make the playoffs. They'll want to win once they get there. Only time will tell if they can actually do so, but, hey, the Kings are already bucking franchise trends just by making it this far. A championship run may be unlikely, but now that the streak is over, anything feels possible in Sacramento.