NORTHSTATE, Calif. — The longest playoff-drought in North American sports is about to end.
With a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings (45-29) will punch their ticket to the NBA playoffs. And even if the 'Beam Team' loses, the squad will almost certainly clinch a postseason spot before March ends.
For those that aren't aware, it's been nearly 17 years since the Kings—Sacramento's lone professional team—made the playoffs. Heck, it's been 16 seasons since the franchise had a winning record.
One person who has been with the organization for every painful moment of that streak: Kayte Christensen, the Kings' color commentator.
Christensen grew up in Modoc County, on a ranch just outside of Alturas. A life-long hooper, Kayte won a state championship in high school, played collegiately for UC Santa Barbara, and was drafted into the WNBA by the Phoenix Mercury. After seven seasons of professional ball, a broadcasting career came calling.
I got a phone call from the director of broadcasting with the Kings and [he] asked me to apply for a job," Christensen told KRCR's Sam Chimenti. "I went to LA with like 200 other people and shot an open audition and I got the job. I got a one year contract—that’s how much faith they had in me because I had no experience. Fast forward 16-17 years later, and here I am."
Christensen, like many—if not all—NBA pundits, did not see this magical Kings season coming.
"No one can tell you, and be honest when they’re telling you, that they thought this team would be a two or a three seed in the Western Conference," Christensen said. "Everybody that has had anything to do with this team for years—and maybe it's the trauma of the losing streak—but everyone was like, 'Let's get to the play-in [tournament]. And maybe we can get the six seed!'"
But the Kings, as of March 27, are nearly a lock to finish top three in the Western Conference and host a playoff series come April.
Christensen credits Kings General Manager Monte McNair for his pragmatic approach to building the Kings roster, while praising Kings first-year Head Coach Mike Brown for his "brilliant" job in swiftly changing the culture of the franchise.
For some fun context, when Sacramento last played in a postseason game—May 5, 2006—Facebook had not yet gone public. RV, starring the late, great Robin Williams, was the top movie in America. And, a carton of eggs was barely $1.
It goes without saying, but Kings fans have patiently waited for the team's revival.
"The world has changed. I mean, the iPhone wasn’t even in existence the last time the Kings were in the playoffs," Christensen said with a laugh. "I think this city might literally explode [during a Kings playoff series]. That beam might blow the top off Golden One Center in the playoffs. They [fans] are so ready to climb on-board for the ride of not just this season, but this is the beginning of a new era. And I think that is maybe one of the most exciting things for this city right now."
The 2023 NBA playoffs will begin on April 15. Light that beam, baby!