Fans Rally for Rudy

Following the announcement of Gay’s return for the 2014-15 season, take a look back at the day the team and Kings diehards welcomed No. 8 back to Sacramento.

By: Steven Wilson

One-hundred degree weather on a Tuesday afternoon wasn’t going to stop Kings fans from lining the entrance at Sacramento International Airport’s Jet Center in anticipation of Rudy Gay’s arrival to meet with the Kings front office. 

News of the welcome gathering quickly spread on social media as fans planned to rally in support of No. 8, who had yet to make a decision on his future.

The Kings forward landed at 2 p.m. PDT, stepped off the plane and was immediately greeted by Head Coach Michael Malone and General Manager Pete D’Alessandro. 

Joined by airport staff, the trio was transported back to the mob of fans chanting “Ru-dy stay, Ru-dy stay!”

Donning a plaid shirt, dark tie and gray slacks, the forward extended hive-fives, photos and autographs as he navigated through the sea of purple to the team’s chauffeured SUV.

“It’s a weekday afternoon, people are at work and they leave work to stand out in 106-degree [weather],” said a humbled D’Alessandro. “I remember saying something to him, ‘You remember when you walked down the stands when we first got you (in December) and the whole arena did it?’ 

“We have [fans] who are willing to take time out of their day and take time off work to be here for you, and it’s impressive – it’s impressive to me and I know it’s impressive to him.”

Not long after signing his final autograph on a pair of purple and silver shoes, the UConn product was on his way downtown to spend the afternoon with Sacramento’s front office personnel, who would show him the latest plans for the new Entertainment and Sports Center, a tour of the XC and to discuss the direction of the team. 

D’Alessandro’s message to fans, reporters and especially to Gay was simple – the team wanted him to remain in a Kings uniform and was willing to pull out all of the stops, including a trip to the State Senate Chamber – to secure his future in Sacramento.

“We’re going to share our vision with him – openly and truthfully – and hopefully there’s a match here,” the Kings GM had said as he awaited Gay’s arrival.

Roughly three weeks later, the organization’s hopes have been realized, as the Baltimore native’s decision to opt-in to the final year of his contract was announced Wednesday. 

Now, the Kings have one piece of their offseason puzzle in place.

“To have Rudy Gay next year was 100 percent in our plans” said D’Alessandro on Monday. “Now, we had to make sure it was in his plans. So we’re thrilled to have a player like him on a long-term basis. It’s really an exciting time for us.”

From the moment news broke about Gay’s intensions, Kings players celebrated their teammates return. 

DeMarcus Cousins – who has been vocal about his support for his frontcourt colleague – posted a picture of the duo on the court. Ben McLemore followed suit with a picture on Instagram and message on Twitter

Fans also joined the celebration, including those who greeted him near the tarmac just a few weeks ago.

“Here’s the thing – with new ownership and a new direction and with guys like Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, anybody would be intrigued to come here,” said Benjamin Wald.

The longtime season ticket holder has seen his share of players join the team over the years, and had reason to believe the River City was in store for a positive outcome. 

“I’ve been a season ticket holder since ’85 – since Day 1 – so, I’ve seen lots of players come through here and they all seem to love Sacramento,” said Wald. “They didn’t think they would, but they did.”

Like D’Alessandro, the Sacramento loyalist was willing to do everything he could to ensure Gay understood how important he is to this team. 

“This is really a partnership,” concluded the Kings leader. “I realized it as soon as I got here and this is more evidence of it.

“How many places do you know where you can get this kind of support?”