The Sacramento Kings' bags were packed, their tickets were punched and the umbrellas were purchased.
TV talking heads already referred, without apology, to the Seattle Sonics. To the all-knowing experts of the NBA, the Central Valley cowtown was no match for the rainy cosmopolitan metropolis of the Northwest.
The Kings were more extinct than the Rolodex and the 25-cent stamp. Their epitaph was written: Quaint keeper of an NBA franchise for 28 seasons, had their hearts broken by the Lakers in 2002, passionate fans but not enough of them to hold off other pro hoops suitors.
This was the conventional wisdom before the NBA Relocation Committee voted unanimously this week to block the franchise's move to Seattle. Suddenly, the ol' CW was slamdunked in the face. The cowtown became a herd of thundering hooves.
To the utter shock of everyone outside the 916, Sacramento won. If the NBA's Board of Governors ratifies the committee vote May 15 as it almost always does the Kings will unpack and stay in Sacramento.
Roadblocks remain, of course. Financial t's must be crossed and i's dotted to finalize the downtown arena, which absolutely must happen.
Seattle vows to continue the fight. The other NBA owners will still chafe if Sacramento's determined grip weakens in the slightest.
But make no mistake the underdog prevailed. The favorite was floored by a shock wave it didn't predict.
Sacramento won because Mayor Kevin Johnson, his competitive juices honed by a brilliant collegiate and NBA career, pulled together in remarkably short order a top-tier ownership group against all odds.
Sacramento won because Seattle, superior monetary bid aside, tied its cart to the wrong horse. Signing on with the Maloofs, the Kings' money-challenged owners, was a little like investing in Enron stock after the fall.
Sacramento won because the powers of incumbency proved too strong to break. Pundits forgot about a few basics: Sacramento is a small market only in the minds of the uninformed. In fact, it is a top-20 national TV market.
The Kings have sold out their arena in 19 of 28 seasons. They lost momentum the last seven years due to an unforced error in the firing of coach Rick Adelman and two elements out of their hands: 1. A punishing recession and, 2. The ineptitude of their owners.
Remember, the Kings thought they had the arena deal signed and delivered until the Maloofs reneged last year. So continued a brutal three-year ordeal during which fans bade a tearful goodbye to the team in 2011, felt their emotion soar and plummet last year, and otherwise watched helplessly as cities from Anaheim to Virginia Beach to Seattle took turns wooing the men in purple.
When the Kings lost the season finale to the Clippers on April 17, fans didn't know whether to laugh, cry, throw confetti or toss their cowbells onto the court in disgust. They were stuck in hoops limbo, much like their troubled team.
Finally, this week brings solid evidence that the NBA does not like its teams pushed here and there like checkers pieces. Sacramento got its act together just in time and, like a light bulb suddenly aglow, the idea crystalized with the owners: If the city, devoid of the Maloofs, can find better owners and build the arena, why transplant the franchise?
David Stern, the soon-to-retire NBA commissioner, didn't seek another Seattle-to-Oklahoma City switch under his watch. It would have kicked in, surely as LeBron James scores another triple-double, if Johnson's plan failed. But it didn't.
Spare your sympathy for Seattle. It falls back on the Seahawks, the Mariners, the Sounders, the University of Washington and echoes of Nirvana. It will regain an NBA franchise, perhaps as soon as incoming commissioner Adam Silver announces his agenda next year.
Sacramento has the Kings and, well, the Kings. Even if you buy into the theory that the NBA played Sacramento like an exquisite violin using Seattle as an extortion tool to rev up the local bid so what?
Here's the result: A chunk of public funding to build the arena, all to keep Sacramento a major-league city.
I like that idea. So should you.
Have you heard those wondrous sounds from the Oracle in Oakland? An electric arena screaming itself hoarse as the Golden State Warriors eliminated the Denver Nuggets? That scene played out a decade ago in Sacramento, only louder.
That's why the city resisted the urge to bow and passively leave the NBA premises. It knew all along the Kings' importance to the region's spirit and credibility. And it recalled the excitement and vitality of that thrilling team between 1999 and 2006. For those reasons, Sacramento fought. And won.
And if that victory holds, it's a win for every valley sports fan.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports.