What the NBA was like the last time the Kings were playoff-bound
The longest playoff drought among North America's four major sports is finally over.
The Sacramento Kings secured a postseason berth courtesy of Wednesday's 40-point blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers, halting a 16-season stretch of ineptitude, the longest such run in NBA history.
April 2006 feels like an eternity ago. The last time the Kings clinched a playoff spot, "Crash" won Best Picture at the Academy Awards weeks prior, Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey had just sent the first tweet, and Nintendo hadn't even released the Wii gaming console yet.
The NBA was also very different back then. Here's a look at 10 noteworthy stories from the 2005-06 campaign:
David Stern's strict sartorial standards
David Stern was at the helm for a 30-year period of incredible growth for the NBA, though the former commissioner's celebrated tenure is not without its critiques. In October 2005, Stern introduced a league-wide dress code, making the NBA the first to establish such rules. Players had to sport business or dress attire when arriving at and departing games, sitting on the bench when injured, or participating in official team activities. Stern's ruling was largely viewed as a response to the infusion of hip-hop culture in basketball and was met with criticism from Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce, and many others. The league has since relaxed the rule during Adam Silver's term.
Bucks take Bogut first overall
The Milwaukee Bucks made Andrew Bogut the first Australian picked first overall. The Utah center was coming off a stellar sophomore campaign, earning the AP National Player of the Year award and consensus first-team All-American honors after leading the nation with 26 double-doubles. In his first NBA season, Bogut appeared in all 82 regular-season games, averaging 9.4 points and seven rebounds per game to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting. The next four picks were Marvin Williams (Hawks), Deron Williams (Jazz), Chris Paul (Hornets), and Raymond Felton (Bobcats). Andrea Bargnani went first overall the following year, and Ben Simmons later became the second Aussie to go No. 1, which we're mentioning for no reason other than to laugh at the past.
Hurricane Katrina ships Hornets to OKC
Might want to grab a pen and paper for this. Before the Charlotte Bobcats became the Charlotte Hornets, the OG Charlotte Hornets were relocated to the Big Easy ahead of the 2002-03 season, becoming the New Orleans Hornets. Due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Hornets were relocated again, this time to Oklahoma City (three years before the Seattle SuperSonics moved there), where they were known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. They played their home games in OKC for the better part of two seasons before returning to New Orleans in the 2007-08 term. They changed their name to the Pelicans a few years later.
LeBron becomes youngest to win All-Star MVP
Three years into what we now recognize as a Hall of Fame-bound career, LeBron James was proving he didn't just belong in the NBA - he was taking the torch. While he made his All-Star debut in his second season in 2004-05, it was only during his third professional campaign that he dominated the midseason exhibition. James, then 21, scored 29 points with six rebounds and helped the Eastern Conference erase a 21-point deficit to beat the West by two. All-Star Games have obvious caveats, but the then-Cleveland Cavaliers star showed how frustratingly difficult it is to slow him down when he sets his mind on something. To this day, he remains the youngest All-Star Game MVP in history. His 31.4 points per game that season also remain a career high.
Kobe drops 81 on Raptors
The mysticism and allure of Kobe Bryant's on-court legacy is dotted with individual performances forever etched into NBA lore. For former Toronto Raptors swingman Jalen Rose, Jan. 22, 2006, was the stuff of nightmares. Rose was largely tasked with guarding Bryant, who went on to score 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting for the highest output since Wilt Chamberlain's 100 in 1962. Bryant also outscored Rose and the other Raptors starters combined by a point, and the two would later appear in a cheeky television commercial where Bryant orders a vodka martini in Rose's presence. Asked how many olives he'd like, Bryant responds "81."
Clippers end lengthy playoff drought
Speaking of lengthy playoff droughts, the Los Angeles Clippers had just snapped their own dire stretch the last time the Kings didn't take an early summer vacation. It wasn't Sacramento's 16 years of torture, but the Clippers hadn't sniffed the playoffs in eight straight seasons when they finally made it in 2006. Not only did they end their skid, but they also took the second-seeded Phoenix Suns to seven games in the conference semifinals as the No. 6 seed. Alas, that momentum was short-lived; it'd be another six years until L.A. returned to the postseason and a brutal 15 years before the franchise finally advanced past the second round.
Allen breaks 3-point record
Well before Stephen Curry's rapid ascent to the top of nearly all the 3-point career leaderboards, the NBA's single-season king from distance was former Orlando Magic guard Dennis Scott, who tallied 267 threes over 82 games in 1995-96. That mark stood until the final day of the 2005-06 campaign, when Ray Allen, then of the SuperSonics, went 7-of-11 from deep against the Denver Nuggets to take his total on the year to 269 treys. To get a proper understanding of how long ago that was, that single-season tally has since been topped 19 times by seven different players.
Heat claim first title in franchise history
The last time the Kings made the playoffs, the Miami Heat were just 18 seasons old and had yet to claim the first of their three NBA championships. Equipped with third-year star Dwyane Wade and a dominant Shaquille O'Neal in his early 30s, Miami hoped to improve on its defeat to the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. After Pat Riley tabbed himself to replace Stan Van Gundy and become head coach again, the Heat ran through the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets in the playoffs before getting revenge on the Pistons. In the Finals, they came back from down 2-0 to beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games and win their first title.
CP3 takes home rookie silverware
Paul put together a sensational first season in 2005-06 with the Hornets, who, as mentioned earlier, played in Oklahoma City that year and the next due to Hurricane Katrina. The Wake Forest product was a timely bright spot for a franchise that badly needed one in its fourth season since leaving Charlotte; he led all rookies in both points and assists with 16.1 and 7.8, respectively, and even finished third overall in the league with 2.2 steals per game. He was named the 2006 Rookie of the Year - still the only winner in franchise history. But if you really want to feel old, consider the other four players who joined Paul on the All-Rookie first team that season: Charlie Villanueva, Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams, and Channing Frye.
Nash wins second straight MVP
When Steve Nash was named MVP for a second successive year, beating out James, Dirk Nowitzki, and Bryant, it was a decision met with some derision. That doubt has only grown over the years. Hindsight can be harsh that way. The orchestrator of the Phoenix Suns' high-octane offense, Nash joined the elusive 50–40–90 club while averaging 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game. He also led the league in assists, free-throw percentage, and true shooting percentage. Joining Nash among the major award winners that year were Ben Wallace (Defensive Player of the Year), Mike Miller (Sixth Man of the Year), Boris Diaw (Most Improved Player), and Avery Johnson (Coach of the Year).
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