Kings end longest playoff drought in NBA history, secure first postseason berth since 2006

The Sacramento Kings have officially ended the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

Sacramento punched its postseason ticket Wednesday night with a 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to secure its place in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2006, snapping the longest active playoff drought across North America's "Big 4" sports (the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). 

“We want to do bigger things, but 16 years – that’s a long time,” Kings star De’Aaron Fox said. “So that feels great just being able to get that off us.”

For Kings fans, it's a moment to celebrate (Light the Beam!). For the rest of us, it's a good time to reflect on just how much has changed during the 16 seasons the Kings spent in the wilderness:

De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and the Sacramento Kings are playoff-bound.
De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and the Sacramento Kings are playoff-bound.

Who was on the 2005-06 Kings?

There was little evidence the Kings were about to embark on a 16-year odyssey of missing the playoffs in 2006. Though the early years of the team's time in Sacramento were brutal, the Kings were making their eighth straight playoff appearance in 2006 under Hall of Fame coach Rick Adelman.

Some mainstays of their best teams during that era were gone by 2005-06 (most notably Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie) but the Kings were still a good team, putting together a 44-38 record while having an impressive seven double-digit scorers.

Mike Bibby led the way with 21.1 points per game, and he was joined in double figures by Metta Sandiford-Artest (then Ron Artest), Peja Stojakovic (who was traded that season for Artest), Brad Miller, Bonzi Wells, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kevin Martin.

Who won the 2006 NBA Finals?

The Kings went out in the first round that year in six games to a 63-win San Antonio Spurs team led by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

The title was captured by the Miami Heat, who won their first championship by defeating Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in six games. Dwyane Wade, who was just 24 years old and in his third NBA season at the time, was named Finals MVP. The championship marked the fourth and final title for Shaquille O'Neal.

Where does Kings' playoff drought rank in NBA history?

It's the longest there's ever been. The drought started with the decision not to bring Adelman back in the summer of 2006. Eleven men have manned the Kings bench, including interim coaches, between Adelman's departure and the hiring of Mike Brown last summer. The Kings did not post a single winning record between 2006 and this season. In fact, Brown and Adelman are the only coaches the Kings have had that have produced winning records since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985.

The Kings' 16-year playoff drought is one season longer than the previous NBA record, held by the Clippers franchise, which missed the playoffs between 1977-1991. In third is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who ended a 13-year playoff drought in 2018.

Kings rookie Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, was 5 years old when the team last played a postseason game.

What is now the longest active playoff drought in NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL?

The crown for longest playoff drought among North America's "Big 4" sports passes to the New York Jets, who last played in a postseason game following the 2010 NFL season (they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game on Jan. 23, 2011).

The Buffalo Sabres' NHL playoff hopes are currently hanging by a thread. Should they miss the postseason – and it appears they're going to – they'll extend their own NHL record by joining the Jets with 12 straight postseason misses. They last played a playoff game on April 26, 2011, when they fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 in the first round.

The longest current MLB postseason droughts belong to the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, with both making their last playoff appearances following the 2014 season. That's right, we have not seen Mike Trout in a playoff game in eight years – and Shohei Ohtani has never appeared in one.

With the Kings finally making it to the NBA postseason, the new active leader for regular season futility is the Charlotte Hornets. Their streak is relatively modest, though; they haven't made the playoffs since 2016.

What's next for these Kings?

"When you have a fanbase that's as intelligent, rabid, passionate about not only their team, but their city too – you can feel it, it's a prideful thing – you want the world for them," Brown said after the playoff-clinching victory. "You're exited about (making the playoffs), we want (the fans) to celebrate but we also know that they expect more from us and we expect to hopefully give them more."

Now that a playoff berth has been secured, attention turns to seeding and the postseason itself.

Sacramento appears to be locked in to the No. 3 seed. The Kings (46-30) are two games back of the Grizzlies with six games left to pay for both teams but they're five games ahead of the fourth-seeded Suns. Who the Kings will play in their likely 3-6 matchup remains a mystery. As of Wednesday night it would be the defending champion Warriors, but the 4-10 seeds are all within 3.5 games of each other.

A number of different droughts could be ended if the Kings go on a run. They have not won a playoff series since 2004, and they've never reached the NBA Finals since they moved to Sacramento (the 2002 team lost in the Western Conference finals in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers – not that Kings fans needed reminding). In fact, the franchise has not played for the NBA championship since 1951, when the Rochester Royals (as they were then known) won the NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. 

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sacramento Kings end longest playoff drought in NBA history