Mayor Johnson: ‘We Did It!’
Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" blared through the speakers as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson walked on stage at City Hall, hugging Council Members and local investors on a historic day for the Kings and California's capital city.
"Repeat after me," began Johnson, addressing a sea of purple-and-black-clad fans who came out to voice their support.
"We did it!" he exclaimed.
"I'm just so excited. As a community, we did what people said we couldn't do. This was one heck of a comeback – it was the longest of long-shots and we, as a community, rose up and did what nobody, except for the folks in this town and this region, thought we could do."
The former NBA All-Star described keeping the Kings in Sacramento as a defining and transformative moment, thanking supporters for their unwavering support.
"The fans – you never gave up, you never lost hope, you supported us," said Johnson. "Every time we fell down, you picked us up and said, 'Keep fighting … We can do it. Our voices will be heard. We will not be ignored.' The fans of Sacramento, this is your moment – truly, your moment."
Throughout the press conference – which included speeches by many of the city's political leaders and local investor Mark Friedman – team diehards, filling the Council Chambers, mezzanine level and adjacent streets, erupted in uproarious applause and chants.
"How do I even put it into words?" longtime Kings fan Stephan Tetsu asked rhetorically. "When I heard the news, I literally pulled my car over (and) sat there in my car, shaking and crying for a half-hour. I just want to scream right now – I'm so happy."
Dozens of beaming supporters echoed a similar sentiment.
"I've had the biggest smile on my face the last couple of days (and) I can't stop smiling," said Chris Solis, a fan since he first caught glimpse of former Kings guard Jason Williams' dazzling passes. "We've been waiting for this moment and it's finally come."
Kevin Fippin, who flew to Dallas to show his support for the Kings at the NBA's Board of Governors pivotal meeting on Wednesday, described the emotional scene while putting the week's events in perspective.
"It was pretty surreal," said Fippin, who's played an integral role in the community's effort to keep the team in town. "After the decision was announced, we all huddled around computers and phones, listening to the press conference, high-fiving each other, giving out hugs.
"It's years of work that City Council and these local owners – and even these community leaders and grassroots leaders, like myself – have been working on for so long to get this done. It's awesome to see it actually happen."
Kings TV Play-by-Play Announcer Grant Napear reiterated his immense pride for the region that came together for a common cause.
"I think it's the best part of it – we all feel we accomplished something because everybody did something to save this team," he said.
"The fans are unparalleled. A lot of fans would've jumped ship, a lot of fans would've given up – this fanbase never gave up. (During) the last game against the Clippers on April 17, if you'd walked in and didn't know any better, you would've sworn you were at a Playoff game. These fans and this community, I think they're a big reason why this team is staying here."
While glancing out at the crowd, local investor Phil Oates revealed he had to hold back tears during the momentous press conference.
"This is what separates us from other towns," said Oates. "A lot of towns have money, a lot of towns have political will – very few towns have this kind of passion.
"There was somebody who was interviewed last night on the news who said, 'This is the biggest day since the gold rush.' I'm not sure it's an overstatement."
Radio personality Carmichael Dave – who traveled cross-country in an RV to showcase Sacramento's support for the team – was similarly all smiles following the gathering, taking time out to pose for photos with appreciative fans.
"This doesn't happen without the owners, without Mayor Johnson and the City Council, but it doesn't happen without the fans," he said. "Without the fans, there is no day like today, and that's why they're the best in the world.
"Today means everything, and the only thing that means more than today is tomorrow — the future," he added. "We earned this, but we have to continue to earn it for years to come, and I'm so confident in our city that we'll be able to do that."
Among the jubilant attendees at City Hall, Greg Boehl held his three-year-old daughter in his arms, beaming with joy while visualizing Kings home games and sharing memories with the next generation of young supporters.
"It's phenomenal," he said. "I've been saying all along, we've already had our chance to be Kings fans. We're fighting for the future so they can experience what we've had the privilege of being a part of. It's beyond words."
At the conclusion of the hour-long press conference, Mayor Johnson put his fist in the air triumphantly at the podium and delivered a powerful final message.
"This was our Playoffs … we won and we're champions," said Johnson. "Long live the Kings!"