The Last Kings of Sacramento
Apr 26 2013
The Maloof brothers and friend. Photo via Rex USA
The Maloofs are a large and publicity-hungry family of aggrieved, vain, ripely orange, and quite possibly no-longer-wealthy desert creatures. They’re originally from New Mexico, although they are spiritually and aesthetically and in every possible pejorative sense, of Las Vegan descent. The Maloofs were at one point owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, a beer-distribution empire that spread across the southwestern United States, and Las Vegas hotel and casino the Palms—basically an Entourage fantasy camp with stripper poles in the suites and Lake Superiors of vodkafied energy drinks emptying nightly into the maws of America's least inventive hedonists. Today, the beer distributorship is sold, as is 98 percent of the family's shares in the Palms—currently being rebranded and, presumably, rigorously disinfected. Soon, after a month of delays and seven or so years of trying to sell the team, the team will pass from the Maloofs’ spray-tanned, manicured hands as well.
On Monday, the Maloofs will find out which of two potential buyers will pay them for the privilege of taking over one of the NBA's worst franchises. A Seattle-based group, from which the Maloofs took $30 million in downpayment earlier this year and to which they would much prefer to sell the team, would move the franchise to—wait for it—Seattle. A Sacramento-based group, whose offer is reported to be marginally smaller than Seattle's, would keep the team in, yes, Sacramento. The important thing about Monday is that’s when the NBA's Finance and Relocation Committee will make its recommendation—following that, one of the two groups will purchase the team and… well, we probably won't be quite rid of the Maloofs, nice as that would be. But basketball fans in Sacramento and elsewhere will be on our way to a Maloof-free life, and that will be a blessing.
The current generation of Maloofs—heirs who squandered their predecessors’ legacy in the gaudiest and dumbest of possible ways—are just a passel of expired fameballs, relics of an era that was hateful even during its illusory and consequence-denying peak. As relics go, the Maloofs are a supremely tacky one—the human equivalent of a pair of false eyelashes caught in an infinity pool's filter. The breadth of their Bush years' doof excess is astonishing. The Maloof family's production company helped make a few failed reality shows on E!, and brothers Joe and Gavin not-quite-lampooned their feckless wealth in a Carl's Jr. commercial. There is even a photo of Gavin Maloof with Robin Leach and Guy Fieri, which should tell you all you need to know about them.
The Maloofs, unlike so many of their superclass peers, seem to be paying some sort of price for their unrelenting dishonesty and braying incompetence. They may or may not be broke, although the $350 million or so that they'll get for the team they've stripped and shopped over the last seven seasons should help with that. But while it will be a very good thing indeed for the people of Sacramento to be rid of these poreless, shameless hucksters, it's hard to think about any of the things that led to this juncture without a queasy sort of regret. There was something weirdly and puzzlingly spiteful about how furiously the Maloofs worked to sell their team exclusively to ownership groups who would move them out of Sacramento—first to Anaheim, then Virginia Beach, then Seattle. That odd sense of totally unnecessary bile was evident, too, in the drearily familiar clock-killing legalisms and smugly dumb dishonesty with which they presented their machinations as something other than what they were. There would be something poignant about their failure, if they hadn't been so loathsome in their pursuit of it.
And so let's say goodbye to this family of avaricious ghouls. It's tough not to pull for Sacramento's group to win Monday's vote—Kings fans organized an admirable grassroots campaign to keep the team last season, and were one of the NBA's best and loudest fan bases before their owners deserted and insulted them; they deserve the team and want it. But Seattle, too, is a great basketball town and one itself recently robbed of a team by a craven capitalist caricature in ham-headed petro-nightmare Clay Bennett. The surest thing, though, is that the NBA will be better without the Maloofs hanging around Maloofing all over the place. Let them return to their crass, sunbaked torpor—their extreme DUIs and reality-television ventures and overly air-conditioned VIP sections and brain-dead brand-leveraging and ritualistic consumption. Let them go back to their own personalized 2005s, and stay there. Let them haunt their own gaudy mansions, instead of a team and fans who always deserved so much better.
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