Mavs-Kings Observations: How did the Kings get their name?

BY foxsports • February 9, 2011

By Chris Schneider
FOXSportsSouthwest.com

February 9, 2011

Ever wonder why the Sacramento Kings are called the Kings?

It's the Yankees fault. Or perhaps a teenager from the 40's.

I've never lived in Kansas City, though I've been there several times.  I got curious the other night watching the Mavericks-Kings game. Heard Mark Followill mention that the Kings may have to relocate again.  I started wondering if they would change the nickname "Kings".  That got me thinking to how they were originally named the "Kings", and if it had anything to do with the fact that all the Kansas City professional sports teams throughout the years had been nicknamed after appointed leaders of different societies.

So I poured myself a third glass of bourbon and started using the Internet for educational purposes finally.   I started with the first professional team to call Kansas City home -- the Monarchs.  The Negro League baseball team formed in 1920 and immediately wanted to be recognized for being the elite of the newly formed league.  So it called itself something that put it on a par with the best team in baseball -- a team that had just bought the greatest baseball player ever born.  The KC team called itself the Monarchs -- taking a name reserved for European royalty -- to juxtapose it to the Yankees -- a name reserved for the original colonists who fought the British for independence.

The Monarchs existed and thrived for decades, even alongside a major league baseball team -- the Kansas City Athletics, who moved to Oakland in 1967.  Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and dozens of other baseball greats played for the Monarchs over the next thirty years.  Then, in 1963, the city known for barbecue, blues and diversity got itself a football team.  

That year, Lamar Hunt (the founder of the AFL and the inventor of the name Super Bowl, by the way) decided that two professional football teams were too much for the city of Dallas.  They had had the Dallas Texans of the AFL since 1959, and the expansion Dallas Cowboys since 1960.  The Cowboys, despite not being nearly as talented, outdrew the Texans consistently, and Hunt, a Texas oilman, wanted to move the team.  He moved them to Kansas City.  He wanted to keep the name Texans -- must've made sense at the time -- but a fan contest was deemed a better idea.  The fan contest produced two names, the Mules and the Royals.  But the team became known as the Chiefs, as tribute to Mayor Bartle who had been chief of a local scout society.

So as the Monarchs reign was ending due to baseball integration and the Athletics were moving west, the Chiefs eventually became the only game in town.  Then in 1969, major league baseball decided to expand and move back into KC.  The team became known as the Royals -- in part because it had been the most popular nickame chosen for the AFL team 6 years prior.  The Royal had been a popular stock show in Kansas City dating back to the turn of the century.  There are also those who think the Royals name is a respectful nod to the KC Monarchs.

Three years later the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA relocated to Kansas City.  Because the name "Royals" was taken, they made the easy transition to the more alliterative Kansas City Kings.

So by 1973 there were three professional sports teams and one former professional sports teams in Kansas City.  All were named for appointed leaders of different societies -- Kings, Chiefs, Royals and Monarchs -- and all three were named such for disparate reasons.  There was little if no correlation to each particular nickname.  Go figure.

Further research (and a fourth bourbon) found that the Cincinnati Royals originated in Rochester in 1945, and were so named thanks to its own fan contest that year.  Fifteen year old Phillip Spaeth suggested the name "Royals", and it was ultimately his name that was picked.

I bet he was a Yankee fan.


share story