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Relocated NBA Teams: The Kansas City-Omaha Kings

The Kansas City-Omaha Kings was one of the many reincarnations of the NBA franchise today known as the Sacramento Kings. The franchise began in Rochester in 1948 and was then known as the Rochester Royals. The team then moved to Cincinnati in 1957 before another move took them to Kansas City in 1972, becoming the Kansas city-Omaha Kings. The Kings franchise remains the one to have spurned the most cities of any NBA franchise. The idea of a tri-city franchise with St. Louis also on the cards had been floated before the Cincinnati Royals left for Kansas but the two city idea was actually enforced on the team because the Kemper Arena in Kansas City would only be complete after two years. Their temporary home, the Municipal Arena meanwhile would not be available for all 41 home games of the season. The team’s owners decided to split the home games, with Omaha hosting 15 games at most at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. The arrangement lasted only three seasons with the team becoming exclusively a Kansas City team once the Kemper Arena was completed.

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The Kings had inherited a largely mediocre roster from the Cincinnati Royals. For the five years preceding their move, the Royals had not made the playoffs a single time and the Kings took that a notch lower. During the 1972/73 season, the Kings trailed the Mid-West division with a 36-46 record. The following season, with Coach Bob Cousy being replaced midway by Phil Johnson, the team was again rooted to the bottom with a 33-49 record. In 1974/75, the Kings improved significantly, finishing second with a 44-38 record. Even though the team made the playoffs that season, they were eliminated by the Chicago Bulls by four games to two in the first round.

The standout performer for the Kings was without a doubt Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald. Playing in a team that was last in many categories including defense and rebounding, Nate’s numbers were all the more impressive. During his first season with the Kings, Archibald led the league in both points per game (34) and assists per game (11.4), the only NBA player ever to do so. He played 46 minutes per game, an NBA record by a considerable distance. No other payer has ever averaged more than 43.7 minutes a game over the whole season. He also shone in the field goal attempts per game category, making 26.3 a game, a number so high that Kobe Bryant has only surpassed it once in his career. For his tiny size and excellent dribbling skills, Nate was likened by various press outlets to the Roadrunner cartoon character with the New York Times musing that he would be beep-beeping and running around and under the legs of anyone who challenged him on the way to a two pointer shot. His influence over the next two seasons would be slightly lower as he sat out more than half of the 1973/74 season with injury and then averaged 27 ppg in 1974/75. The other player holding the team together was center Sam Lacey who was most notable for his defensive ability. Beginning 1973 when the NBA started keeping track of steals and blocks, Lacey averaged 1.5 steals and 2 blocks a game. He was also pretty decent in offense as he averaged 13.5 ppg and 11.8 ppg during the 1972/73 season. He was a fans favorite as he lasted 11 years with the franchise, earning the honor of most minutes played and had his #44 jersey retired.

Why the Kansas City-Omaha Kings Relocated

Although Kansas City’s management tactically sold it as a permanent deal, the Kings arrangement with the city of Omaha, being a contingency ultimately meant that it was on the clock. That clock did run out as the Kemper Arena was completed and ready for occupation by the start of the 1975/76 season. After hosting 15 games in the first season, the following two seasons saw Omaha host 14 then 11 games. The Kings dropped Omaha from their official name and schedule and became the Kansas City Kings. However, a handful of games were still played in Omaha in subsequent seasons. Today, both Omaha and Kansas City do not have NBA franchises and it remains highly unlikely that either of them will get one in the near future.

Kansas City-Omaha Kings Notable Players

Tiny Archibald G 1972-1975

Sam Lacey C 1972-1975

Jimmy Walker SF 1973-1975

Don Kojis SF 1972-1975

Nate Williams PF 1972-1975

John Block C 1972-1974

Matt Guokas SF 1972-1974

Larry McNeill C/PF 1973-1975

Ron Behagen C 1973-1975

Ollie Johnson SF 1974/75

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