Kevin Johnson will forever be known to Kings fans as their savior.
He was the mayor who fought off the Maloofs and the powers that be to galvanize the NBA, the Sacramento community and the California government to keep the Kings in Northern California. A fan base owes this mayor a debt of gratitude. His reasons for doing so probably will not matter in the end. Johnson, when he stands arm in arm with new owner Vivek Ranadive will get his cheer.
Johnson though has a deep, dark secret. Maybe one that is irrelevant to Kings fans, but one that was part of the story of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
While Kevin Johnson loves his hometown of Sacramento — he did come back and run for mayor after all — K.J. hates the Kings.
That is what Johnson's former special assistant, R.E. Graswich, says in his new book Vagrant Kings, detailing the wild ride for the Kings, the city of Sacramento and the Johnson mayoral office during the whole Kings saga.
What Graswich says is Johnson still holds a grudge from Draft day 1987 when the Kings looked past the hometown kid. He pushed hard to keep the Kings because it was good for the city. Instead, David Stern was the real hero of Sacramento (h/t CBS Sacramento):
Kevin Johnson hates the Kings. He still holds a grudge from 1987 when they drafted Kenny Smith one spot ahead of Kevin Johnson.
Every step of the way, Kevin had a coach. It’s David Stern driving this thing. Kevin is the loyal soldier.
Johnson was indeed a good soldier, and a good politician, for the city of Sacramento. He worked for his city to get his team to stay. That was what he wanted to do for his city.
Sacramento might be sorry it passed on Johnson. He had a strong 12-year career with the Suns (after the Cavaliers drafted him and traded him during his rookie season). He was Charles Barkley's running mate and one of the first of the extremely athletic point guards that entered the league. Johnson was also a three-time All Star and the 1990 Most Improved Player award.
The genesis of his frustration with the Kings came when the Kings selected Kenny Smith with the sixth pick instead of Johnson. Johnson went next to the Cavaliers at seventh.
Since that time, Johnson apparently held a grudge against the Kings. He averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 assists per game against the Kings in his career. Not his best performances, but certainly a decent one.
Johnson will remain the hero of Sacramento, even if it is for a team he does not like very much.