sacramento: There are events that happen during the history of a professional franchise that help define who they are. some moments are incredible that help set the tenor for years to come. others are incredibly destructive and have a lasting impact.
for the san francisco 49ers, it was dwight clark’s incredible catch in the 1981 nfc championship game that became the nexus of a dynasty.
the sacrament kings are not so lucky. A poorly refereed Game 6 in the 2001-02 Western Conference Finals cost the team a chance to eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers and advance to the NBA Finals. Sacramento stumbled in game 7 and the rest is history.
is a moment in time that completely changed the franchise. In the immediate aftermath of the loss, a series of failed arena funding attempts almost cost Sacramento his NBA team.
More than 17 years later, game 6 is still a topic of discussion. He was mentioned again by disgraced NBA official Tim Donaghy on the upcoming Warriors Insider podcast. Donaghy is on a promotional tour for his upcoming film project, “Inside Game,” and he had no problem commenting on what he believes was an injustice.
“I have no doubt that the Kings of Sacramento should have a ring on their finger,” Donaghy told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole. “They were the best team in the league that year. that game 6 was definitely a situation where towards the end of that game they got robbed.”
according to donaghy, for a long time nba official dick bevatta was something of a fixer for the league. and in the controversial game 6, he may have helped change the outcome of the game and ultimately the series.
“he said several times to several of us that he was the go-to guy in the nba,” donaghy said of bavetta. “they put him in game 6 to force game 7. i think there’s no question in my mind, or a lot of people within the nba, they know they gave the lakers the benefit of multiple calls in that game, thinking it was just going to go to a game 7 and sacramento was going to win on their home floor. the lakers win the championship and really, it’s unfortunate for sacramento, because they should definitely have a ring on their finger.”
During the latest episode of the Purple Talk podcast, we were able to replay comments from long-time Kings announcer Donaghy, Grant Napear, as well as former Kings shooting guard Doug Christie, who was on the court during that infamous series. .
“I think to this day, it was the worst umpired game in nba history,” said napear. “and as bad as it was and doug is probably better at talking about this than me the kings in game 7 and they played all year to get home court they missed 14 free throws in a game 7 and I can I don’t blame tim donaghy or the referees or anyone else.”
napear has spent 32 years calling games for kings. he wasn’t on the call that night, but he made games 3 and 4 on the radio side.
“everyone always talks about dick bavetta, i think bob delaney was the most incompetent official i have ever seen in a big game,” said napear. “His refereeing of him in game 6 of that game, in the, was beyond my comprehension.”
for christie, he has a different perspective. manager of superstar guard kobe bryant, his focus was 100 percent on the task at hand. he alone in hindsight has had a chance to reflect on that night’s refereeing.
“When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to understand, because you can’t do what Grant [just did],” Christie said. “It is outside looking in. it’s inside, but you have to be a bit objective and different things while you’re inside. you can’t start complaining, because if you start complaining, it takes you off your game.”
just like napping, christie acknowledged the kings’ failures in game 7. as much as the fans, and people like donaghy, want to point fingers at the umpires, sacramento had every chance to win the series and they didn’t get the job done.
“We knew something was going to happen, but to be honest, we still had the ability to run the business and we didn’t,” Christie said.
Christie, along with her teammates, many of whom are back in Sacramento working for the team, haven’t forgotten. They, more than anyone, wanted a parade through the streets of Sacramento, which is one of the main reasons why the group has returned to the capital city.
[related: and if the kings had won game 4]
“It’s as hard as you can get,” Christie said. “but you know what? i always tell grant, i’ve learned more about myself through that little bit of loss than through any win and i’m better off for it. that’s why when i see vlade [ divac] and I see peja [stoyakovic] and I see bobby [jackson] and me here, we have unfinished business”
The Sacramento Kings franchise has changed forever since the events of the 2001-02 Western Conference Finals. Chris Webber would break his knee next season and the window quickly closed for Kings. by the 2005-06 season, the final remnant of that team was gone, which is the last time the franchise made it to the nba playoffs.
for the rest of the conversation with napear and christie, tune in to the latest episode of purple talk.