Sign Lady’s Hall of Fame Day

Get an all-access look at the exclusive viewing party held inside the Kings locker room for Sign Lady’s ESPN Fan Hall of Fame induction.

By: Steven Wilson

by Steven Wilson
Writer, Digital

When Barbara Rust entered the Sacramento Kings locker room on Thursday morning, she was amazed at the welcome before her – the space was adorned with team memorabilia, jerseys and signs gracing the wooden lockers.

Recognized as “Sign Lady” amongst Kings family, the day marked Barbara’s official induction into the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame.

“This is way beyond anything I could have anticipated – this is just beautiful,” said Rust as tears began to fill her eyes. “I appreciate everyone who works here and those who were a part of this – it means so much to me that [the Kings] did this.”

Since 1985, Barbara and her husband, Niko, have been loyal supporters of the purple and black, ultimately gaining acclaim for their handcrafted signs displayed from their seats to creatively spread positive messages to the team.

Although Rust was unable to attend ESPN’s induction festivities in Bristol, Conn., Slamson, friends and Kings executives – including President Chris Granger and General Manager Pete D’Alessandro – accompanied her for a private viewing of the ceremony.

“To us,” began D’Alessandro,” She’s been in the Hall of Fame since the day we walked in the door. 

Following introductions and speeches from two fellow inductees, it was Barbara’s turn as ESPN aired her pre-taped induction speech.

“I want to say, ‘Congratulations, and thank you’ to all Kings fans, not just in Sacramento but, all over the world,” stated Rust in the video. “It was Kings fans who nominated me and voted for me, but I don’t see this as an individual award. I share the honor of being in the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame with all of my Kings family, which includes fans, all former and current Kings players, all Kings staff and employees, the Sacramento media, our Mayor Kevin Johnson and other city officials, and our wonderful new ownership group led by Vivek Ranadivé.”

Humble, Barbara hesitated when she first learned of her Hall of Fame nomination, citing Niko’s affinity for social media as the impetus of her awareness.  

“It’s still hard to believe that this is happening,” said Barbara. “I actually didn’t know it was happening until it was well underway because I don’t (use) social media. Before I knew it, ESPN had selected me as a finalist. Even though I was hesitant at first, I talked it over with a lot of fans and realized that this is bigger than me. I never thought a small market like Sacramento would earn such a big award like this, but it’s just another testament to Kings fans. When they want to make something happen, they make it happen.” 

Sign Lady’s Hall of Fame bid was initially announced in late 2013, on the same night the Kings celebrated an overtime win over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

Though she earned the accolades, Barbara was quick to commend her biggest supporters.

“[I would like to give] a special thanks to my husband, Niko, and our daughter, Jennifer, for being our partners in Kings spirit and for helping me make hundreds of signs over the years to help us cheer for the Kings.”

Although the Rusts have been season ticket holders since 1988, they characterized 2013-14 as one of the biggest – welcoming new players, new ownership and details of a new arena set to open in 2016, on top of the Hall of Fame induction.

“I’m grateful and very proud that Sacramento will be the first NBA fanbase to be represented by the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame,” shared Barbara. “We are a small market, but we have big hearts filled with love, loyalty and passion for our Kings.”

“It’s obviously a great day for [Barbara Rust], but really it’s a great day for all of us,” stated Kings President Chris Granger, who presented ESPN’s trophy to the couple and a gift on behalf of the team – a personalized, crystal Tiffany & Co. basketball.

“We are thrilled and honored that you are a fan of the Sacramento Kings. Quite honestly, you [and Niko] both represent the best of Sacramento in your resiliency, your hopefulness, your perseverance, your community-mindedness and your family spirit.”

Just before bestowing the awards, Granger concluded, “I love the fact that the best fans in the world and the loudest fans in the world are represented by someone who doesn’t have to say a word.

“And yet, she is still our loudest fan and she is still our most powerful fan. On behalf of our ownership group, on behalf of the Kings and the entire Kings family, ‘We love you, and congratulations, we think it's a great day.’”