The Sacramento Kings are basketball in this city, however, owners of the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) Sacramento Heatwave, Reggie Davis and Greg Chambers, are trying their best to change the psychological monopoly the Kings hold on locals who love basketball.
Slightly different than the NBA, the ABA features a few rule variations. For example, the 3-D rule, which the ABA states is "when a team loses possession of the ball while it is in the backcourt, one additional point is added to the point value of the field goal. The rule remains in effect until the team scores, attempts a free throw, the other team gains control, or the period ends. When the defense commits a foul with the 3-D rule on and free throws are to be attempted, the number of free throws will be increased by one." There are a few other rule differences, which can be found on the Heatwave website at heatwavelive.com.
Originally located in Fresno, the Heatwave were brought to Sacramento by Davis and Chambers in an attempt to expand their fan-base, as Fresno locals seemed more in tune with college basketball than any professional level. With Sacramento’s reputation as being a basketball-loving town thanks to the Sacramento Kings, Davis and Chambers agreed the move made perfect sense for their forgotten franchise.
However, due to legal complications and venue constraints, the team has struggled mightily to knit itself into the Sacramento community, something that Davis says was a bit unexpected when they arrived.
"We’ve been trying to get in here the last couple of years, but things have changed," he said. "The city invited us up here, but they didn’t really do the things they said they would do. We hope that Mayor Johnson’s going to be a little more open to giving us support. We just want to get in and do our work with the fan-base and change the colors in Sacramento from purple to orange."
The Heatwave were able to strike a deal with the Natomas High School Event Center for a few of their games in the 2006-2007 season, but that marriage did not last long, as the franchise moved its home games to Cosumnes River College thereafter.
As the economy continues to suffer — particularly in California — Davis says he anticipates the market for the Heatwave will expand due to its affordability and community-based emphasis.
"It’s so people have something that’s affordable, and it’s the American Basketball Association, so we play with the red, white and blue ball," he said. "We think we can [win] over some of these fans, eventually. And we think we have a nice looking product on the floor. I know the area’s big enough for two [teams]. Our market is bigger than the Kings market, and as the economy gets worse, the smaller their market gets and the bigger ours gets."
Davis says one thing the team hopes to bring is a focus on giving back to the community and helping charitable organizations throughout Sacramento. With an even greater need for assistance this year than last in the case of many non-profit groups, Davis says he hopes the Heatwave can supply an added assist for the groups that matter so much to the Sacramento community.
"We’re more of a grassroots-type of team," he said. "We try and do a lot in kids’ programs, health issues, things like that. We’re working with Boys & Girls Club, Shriners Hospital, and there’s a few others we want to work with. "We try and be as diverse as we can with community service, because all these things impact our community. We’re right there with the people."
According to Davis, tickets will typically run from $10 to $15, a price tag he says is much more affordable than a Kings game, which can cost hundreds of dollars for a comparable seat close to the court. Davis also plans on incorporating local basketball players into the roster via tryouts in an attempt to not only improve the team’s performance, but also to give the community some of their own to rally around.
"I actually think we’re going to do really well," Davis said. "We’re hoping to add more local players this year, which will not only help us because they’re good players, but also because they can help build our fan-base. There’s an expectation here that we’ll always be very competitive."
With the inauguration of Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player and three-time NBA All Star, the city of Sacramento seems poised to continue negotiations with the Heatwave to find a suitable location within the town for their home games. Davis says he knows, if given the opportunity with publicity and sponsorships, that the Heatwave will be a welcome addition to an already basketball-crazed city.
"Most people who follow us right now are getting excited," he said. "Once we get some more exposure from the media and some corporate sponsors, we’re really going to spread our wings."
The season is expected to start sometime between late November and early December and run until March. Tickets and more information on the Heatwave’s franchise are on heatwavelive.com.