Our third NBA Tuesday miniseries takes on a long-standing—and long-suffering—NBA franchise with its origins back to the start of the league. The Sacramento Kings began as the Rochester Royals (1950-1957), before migrating to Cincinnati (1958-1972) and then both Kansas City-Omaha (1973-1975) and just Kansas City (1976-1985). The journey across the country, coast to coast, ended in 1986 when the organization settled in California’s northernmost metro area.

In 73 full NBA seasons, the franchise has made the postseason only 29 times—winning a single championship in 1951, the league’s second season. That remains the organization’s only appearance in the Finals, as well, and the Kings have not reached the playoffs since the 2006 season … although that should change this spring with the conclusion of the 2022-2023 regular season. In the meantime, enjoy this list, which does not include the team’s lone title team, oddly enough.

No. 5: 2003-04 Sacramento Kings

The franchise had a mighty run to start the new century, but it was curtailed by questionable circumstances. This team was the last of the dominant squads, posting a 55-27 record to finish second in the Pacific Division. Ranked second in offense but 25th in defense, it still finished No. 3 in the overall SRS. The Kings dropped the Dallas Mavericks in 5 games to open the playoffs, but Sacramento suffered a 7-game defeat against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round.

The best players were small forward Peja Stojaković (13.5 Win Shares), power forward Brad Miller (10.0), and point guard Mike Bibby (9.3). The aging roster only had two other players register more than 3.1 WS, creating challenges against younger, deeper squads. In the playoff series against the T’wolves, the Kings lost 3 games by a combined 9 points—including Game 7 by just 3 points. As noted above, this was the beginning of the end for the Kings’ never-was dynasty.

No. 4: 2000-01 Sacramento Kings

Another 55-win season resulted in another second-place finish in the Pacific, built upon the No. 1 offense and the No. 13 defense. It added up to a No. 2 SRS rating, but after beating the Phoenix Suns in the opening round (then still a best-of-five) in 4 games, the Kings ran into the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the second round—and were mercilessly swept out of existence in 4 games. The Lakers won by an average of 9.2 ppg, so it wasn’t very close, either.

This team was a strong four-headed monster: PF Chris Webber (11.0 WS), Stojaković (10.1), shooting guard Doug Christie (8.7), and center Vlade Divac (7.4). After losing the opening game to Phoenix at home by 3 points, the Kings overwhelmed the Suns in the next three games, winning by a combined 31 points to advance. But Sacramento lost the first two games on the road in L.A. by a combined 9 points, and the Kings’ spirit was broken by the failed upset effort(s).

No. 3: 2002-03 Sacramento Kings

After getting robbed outright in the 2002 playoffs, it’s impressive the Kings fought back with such a great season. Sacramento posted a 59-23 record to win the Pacific Division, and the team finished second in the SRS based on the No. 3 offense and the No. 17 defense. In the first round, the Kings beat the Utah Jazz in 5 games, but they ran into the upstart Dallas Mavericks in the second round, losing in 7 games. There would be no rematch with the referees or the Lakers.

Six players registered at least 5.5 WS, with the same quartet atop the heap: Stojaković (10.1), Christie (8.9), Divac (7.0), and Webber (6.9). Bibby (5.6) and fellow PG Bobby Jackson (5.5) rounded out the sextet. The Kings outscored the aging Jazz by 10.6 ppg, but against the Mavs, it was an up-and-down affair where Sacramento’s defensive weaknesses were exposed—Dallas scored 114.6 ppg in a high-scoring series that saw the Mavericks win Game 7 on their home court.

No. 2: 2001-02 Sacramento Kings

With a 61-21 record that was the best in the NBA, the Kings won the Pacific Division and finished No. 1 in the SRS. That rating was built on the No. 2 offense and the No. 19 defense. Sacramento beat Utah 3-1 in the first round, before it beat Dallas in 5 games during the second round. Against the once-again defending champion Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, though, one of the all-time NBA snow jobs victimized the small-market Kings in a 7-game series.

Eight players on this deep roster finished with over 5.0 WS, led by Stojaković (9.9), Christie (8.6), Webber (8.6), and Divac (7.3). The Jazz series was a close one, with all four games being decided by 7 points or less, but the Kings recovered to beat down the Mavericks in the conference semis—Sacramento won two games by a combined eight points and outscored Dallas by 6.0 ppg overall. Against the Lakers, though … well, the Kings outscored them, but the refs got in the way. Legit.

No. 1: 1949-50 Rochester Royals

The only team on this list not from the early 2000s era in Sacramento, this Royals squad went 51-17 in the inaugural season of the NBA—finishing No. 7 on offense and No. 1 on defense. That amounted to a No. 2 SRS rating, overall. Rochester had to play a one-game playoff to decide the Central Division title, and it lost that game to the Minneapolis Lakers, the eventual league champs. Clearly bummed, the Kings folded in the playoffs, losing to the Ft. Wayne Pistons.

The roster was dominated by SG Bobby Wanzer (10.5 WS), PG Bob Davies (7.7), SF Arnie Johnson (7.2), and G Fran Curran (6.6). The Royals had the home court for the matchup against the Lakers, but they lost by 2 points. Then, they lost Game 1 on their home court to the Pistons by 6 points. Going on the road for Game 2, the Rochester roster must have been just mentally defeated, and the Royals lost by 1 point to find themselves eliminated just like that. Season over.