hardwood

Return of the Kings

It is November 16, 2001. I am ten-years-old and the Chicago Bulls are a steaming pile of dog shit, led by Tim freaking Floyd. At 1-7, the Bulls are looking for their first road win of the season in Sacramento. After one, they lead 26-25. Could this be the day?

doug crhistie
Doug Christie blows by Greg Anthony, Ron Mercer and Fred Hoiberg, to meet and likely score on, Brad Miller at the rim in the Kings Nover 16, 2001 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Arco Arena. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Alas, the Bulls failed to score 20 points in a quarter for the rest of the game against the Kings vice grip defense. The Bulls would lose the game 105-71. However, the lowly Bulls were not the only team that was

Here we are a decade and a half later and the 2001-02 Kings are back as one of the 16 newly included classic teams in the upcoming NBA 2K18 video game. As a hoops historian, I love hopping in the “basketball time machine,” to play as legendary teams of the past. These Kings will be one of my choice teams in the upcoming season.

The OG Kings went 61-21 on their way to winning the Pacific Division and ultimately losing in the 2002 Western Conference Finals in what is still recalled as one of the most controversial series in the history of the NBA. Many NBA conspiracy theorists will tell you the series was fixed.

Fixed or not, the Kings were terrifying. The black and purple outfitting a team of sharpshooters, slashers, lockdown defenders, brilliant passers, and possessors of what we here at Hardwood Features like to refer to as the #clutchchromosome. As we now prepare to embark on the latest virtual basketball journey, let us remember the players that made the Kings so nasty in a celebration of their glory as well as a scouting report for your gaming endeavors.

Divac-Shaq
Vlade Divac goes toe-to-toe with Shaquille O’Neal. Photo courtesy of Sports-kings

At center, it was Vlade Divac, the 7-foot-1, Serbian sensation. Divac was one of the only centers in the league who could come close to containing Shaquille O’Neal  in his prime.

Not only a defensive anchor, Divac is up there with Joakim Noah and Bill Walton as one of the greatest passing bigs of all time. Offensive post-moves, too smooth would always loose young or foolish defenders, Vlade was poetry in the post.

bibby fisch
Mike Bibby unapologetically breaks the ankles of Derek Fisher who has fallen and cannot get up. Meanwhile, Bibby rises up for his signature mid-range jumper.  Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star.

At the point was one of the craftiest and clutches point guards of his era. Mike Bibby was money when it mattered most. Bibby led one of the best passing teams of-all-time in dimes, shot 37 percent from deep, and played with an undefinable swagger that cannot be found on any box score but was always felt on the floor.

Bibby ran the fastest show in the league in 2001 as the Kings finished the season first in pacing and third in offensive rating with him at the helm. Along Bibby’s side was the “Big Shot” Bobby Jackson!

bobby jackson
Bobby Jackson graces the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Whether backing up Bibby or playing alongside side in a deadly up-tempo attack, Bobby’s feet were too sweet, as he slashed his way to the rack. Breaking off defenders, dropping dimes, or pulling up for the J, Bobby lived to put the purple dagger in the heart of the Kings’ enemies.

At the shooting guard, the OG, Doug Christie; toughness with a splash of nasty. Christie was a great two-way role player, averaging 12 points, and two steals a game while helping to create space for by knocking down the trey-ball at 35 percent.

 

peja
Peja Stojakovic lines up a 3-pointer at All Star Weekend

 

Starting at small forward was the unfair, Peja Stojakovic. The numbers say he shot 41.6 percent from beyond the arch but eyewitness account claim that he never missed a 3-pointer in his life. Peja won back-to-back 3-point shootouts 2002 and 2003.

Playing his backup was 22-year-old, Hedu Turkoglu. Turk was not yet the crafty marksmen that he would later become with the Orlando Magic but with his ability to pass and his 36.8 percent 3-point shooting clip, he was a perfect fit for the Kings, averaging 10.1 points per game in just his second year.

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Chris Webber scores two of his 51 points, January 5, 2001.

Finally, Chris Webber. One of the best passing bigs of all-time,  Webber’s court vision and passing skills personified the very identity of the team he started on. The Kings were a team that’s strength was made up of the sum of its parts rather than the stand-alone talent of individuals. However, there is no doubting that Chris Webber was the biggest and most feared part of them all. Webber’s 24.5 points and 10.1 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game led the team. His 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals both coming in second. Webber did it all, including putting up the occasional video game numbers.

Whether it be for their potential as a great 2K team this year or simply reflecting on one of the greatest teams to never win a championship, the greatest part of these Kings teams was their selfless style of play. Tip of the hat to Rick Adleman, who like the other coaches of the classic games will not be included. No, it will be up to you and I to play with this team the way they are meant to be played with; the way that they are at their most dangerous.

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