If you watch a local feed of an NBA game, each of the commercials pointing you to the various ways to buy team merchandise online won't send you to the NBA.com store, but another online URL run by the team itself that hangs outside of the NBA's official tentacles. It's a nice way to keep closer tabs on who is buying what locally, presumably keeping a little more of the overall scratch for the franchise, while sending needed jobs to the sometimes-local dot-commeries that can personalize the store as the team sees fit. Nothing against what NBA.com does, but its script is the same for all 30 squads. And teams like to cater their own store to their own squad's needs.
The Sacramento Kings? They needs-a the money, so much. And yet, as discovered by CBS earlier this week and blown up all over the Internet in the days following, the Kings' personalized store — their official store — has been down since the second week in June, and nobody seemed to notice until the last week in August. From CBS:
Since June, the link to the Kings' online store has been a black screen with a telephone number.
"We had a company that was helping us with our website and these are lean times in the economy," Kings spokesman Chris Clark said. "They're in business one day, the next day they're gone."
And gone was the Kings' team shop website.
"In the e-commerce industry, it takes about four months to build a website from scratch, and the way the company went under it kind of left us in a lurch," Clark said.
Completely and utterly understandable, if it were 1997.
If it really took four months for this stuff to start up from scratch.
If the Kings couldn't just re-direct their website's merch page to NBA.com's by-the-numbers version of the team's store.
Or possibly set up a PayPal system.
Or an Etsy.
Or find somebody's know-all nephew to take over, y'know, in the two-plus months interim.
Or, saddest of all, if anyone had noticed any of this.
The reasons behind the ambivalence are what you'd expect. Sacramento won just a third of its games last year. The team's most popular and accomplished player, Tyreke Evans, has disappointed with his play on the court and actions off it over the last two years. Its most recent draft pick, the highly regarded Thomas Robinson, doesn't offer much in terms of Q-rating or flashy play. The team was 28th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance last season, less a function of the team's relatively ancient and intimate arena and more a function of the Sacramento Kings-y-ness of the whole outfit.
There's also the whole part where Kings fans assumed that they had played their last game in Sacramento some 14 months before the team store went dark. The team's owners, the Maloof brothers, are duplicitous and conniving front-runners who have gone out of their way in refusing to work with the city in an attempt to move the team elsewhere in order to make short-term monetary gains with a team they clearly have no long-term interest in.
It's a novelty, this "news," and a joke. There was always a phone number to call, to grab your Kings gear, and you could always go to NBA.com during the blackout. That it took this long for anyone to notice, though, or care enough to point out that they noticed? It's deadening.
Jason Williams' Sacramento Kings jersey is a dozen years removed from ranking in the top five in jersey sales for two years running. The greatest Sacramento King in history, Chris Webber, is quickly becoming the NBA's most beloved color commentator and probably isn't too far off from getting the retro jersey treatment in his own right. This used to be an appointment-viewing franchise, and for so many reasons it has lost its way.
It's URL, too. And your chance to pick up that John Salmons authentic road alternate jersey. And though it's an overwrought take on a silly story, it wasn't the vicissitudes of the economy and e-commerce that failed the Sacramento Kings. It was the Sacramento Kings.
Starting from the very top.