Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other. The premise is simple: We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each succeeding campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
Before players were even trying on their Christmas Day alternatives, the Sacramento Kings were in dead last in the Western Conference and barely a blip on the playoff radar. Reporters and clever bloggers were already using headlines like “Kissing Cousins Goodbye” or “Boogie Mights” in trying to determine which team would finally win the DeMarcus Cousins trade sweepstakes. Bill Simmons even saw a .000002 percent increase in his ratings after he and John Cena analyzed how the Celtics could land Cousins for one draft pick and tickets to a Bosstones show.
It was the same old, same old for Kings GM Vlade Divac, as he shopped Rudy Gay around to fringe playoff contenders and worked diligently to help Arron Afflalo in his quest to play for every team in the league. Teams would even call about acquiring Matt Barnes for cash, which the Kings aren’t ever used to seeing. At best, the Kings would collect a couple mid-to-late first round picks while giving their young players and rookies more time on the court. At worst, well, they’d continue to be the Kings. Hell, as long as owner Vivek Ranadive didn’t turn the Golden 1 Center into a Walmart, the Kings couldn’t get any lower than they had been, and so there’s a silver lining for everyone.
And that’s not to say there weren’t some bright spots in the early months of Dave Joerger’s punishment from God … I mean first season as Kings coach. Willie Cauley-Stein was the focus of SacTown’s defense renaissance – a defenaissance, if you will – and he had most NBA experts believing that he could be the next star … of nonstop trade rumors. It was great for Cousins, both on the court and in the locker room, because he finally had someone with whom he could role play what it might be like to play for a team that doesn’t rival the Washington Generals in terms of respect and expectations.
But then the unthinkable happened. On the morning of Monday, December 26, as the Kings were preparing to be blown out by the Philadelphia 76ers (who had shocked the NBA by losing only one game by that point in the season), the world experienced a tragedy so rare that only the dinosaurs could have empathized. In the time that it takes to eat a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast, some of the world’s largest cities were obliterated by meteorites. Pop. Pop. Pop. One by one, cities from Moscow to Melbourne were struck by tiny space rocks that were still large enough to wipe them out. It was horrifying to watch (from a safe distance, obviously), and when the dust settled, the world looked like a giant ball of Swiss cheese.
Oh, and there was an insane amount of civilian casualties from the space shower, and everyone was super sad about it, naturally. It actually inspired world peace and caused what few politicians survived to rethink their priorities and focus on making the best of what some people believed was a second chance at humanity. Billionaires created a new economy that favored equality and – it was just awesome. You had to be there.
Because sports are always the answer in times of tragedy and healing, the remaining millions of people turned to the major sports leagues for entertainment and solidarity. Unfortunately, every American city that had a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey franchise was wiped out. That is, except for one – Sacramento.
As bad luck would have it, the 76ers hadn’t made it to Sacramento by the morning of 12/26, as Joel Embiid had eaten some really bad tacos in Phoenix two days earlier, so the team waited with him at the hospital to make sure he wouldn’t need his colon removed. The whole thing was awful. Of course, it became even more awful when a bunch of meteorites destroyed most of the world and billions of people, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the 76ers never made it to their next game. Only the Kings survived, and the players would eventually tell Roy Firestone in a very emotional interview that they could have never imagined playing again that season.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was also one of the many casualties of this horrific space storm, but his predecessor David Stern made it out almost unscathed, as did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was, however, eaten by a bear that escaped from a local zoo. Wait, did I say unscathed? I meant Stern was decapitated. Fortunately, he employs a team of doctors and scientists for such a scenario, and they put his head in a glass case that was then installed in the belly of a robot made from Charles Barkley’s body. Basically, Stern became Krang.
Ever the shrewd businessman, Stern knew that even with just one team he could still run a financially-successful basketball league. Sure, the fact that it was the worst team made things a little more difficult, but if a team could survive in Orlando after that whole Dwight Howard sh*tshow, anything was possible. So, Stern immediately announced that the Kings, despite player objections, would finish their season. They would play all their games at home, in front of crowds as large as 200 people (so, basically the same), and their opponents would be anyone who could dribble a basketball.
Amazingly, the Kings won two-thirds of those games and secured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. From there, it was pretty much a certainty that the Kings would win the whole thing, despite continued rumors that Cousins wanted out of Sacramento. Even Skip Bayless, who survived by hiding under Shannon Sharpe, called the Kings the best team in the NBA during the 2016-17 season, while noting that if LeBron James wanted to defend his NBA title, he shouldn’t have been disintegrated by a chunk of space rock.
Naturally, some questions lingered after the Kings’ improbable championship run. For starters, was a diabolical god-like monster or species of flesh-eating giant reptiles behind the meteorite attack? But most importantly, could Divac keep this team together for another run at the game’s biggest prize? Only time will tell, for both answers.