Kevin Johnson spent his last night as Sacramento mayor getting humiliated.
The disgraced former NBA star turned disgraced chief executive of the California capital went to the Golden 1 Center, the arena that was supposed to be a safe space for him. The building wouldn’t exist had Johnson not used his office and local renown to divert at least $255 million in public funds toward its construction. Johnson’s replacement, Darrell Steinberg, will be sworn in as mayor tonight. The Sacramento Kings had announced the team would give Johnson a send-off during last night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers game; the ceremony ended up being an embarrassment for the alleged guest of honor.
Johnson, a famous grudge holder, likely showed up to the game in a bad mood. Johnson’s cronies were planning to use last week’s city council meeting, the final such meeting he would preside over as mayor, to officially request that the team hang a jersey with Johnson’s name from the rafters. But before a vote on the council’s resolution could take place, Kings management very publicly put the kibosh on the effort, issuing a statement saying, “[W]e do not have any immediate plans to retire his jersey.” The statement also contained some olive-branch language, including a mention that also the team would “continue to look for ways” other than the jersey retirement to honor Johnson for playing the sugar daddy.
Out of that brainstorm came the idea for a brief and spare summit between Johnson and team owner Vivek Ranadivé. So instead of the jersey retirement Johnson craved, or any sort of glitzy affair, Ranadivé merely walked on-court during a second-quarter timeout and handed Johnson a basketball signed by fans and construction workers. The only thing left hanging in the arena was Ranadivé’s right hand, as Johnson ignored the host’s attempted handshake after taking the token gift.
The Sacramento CBS affiliate, KOVR-13, aired a report after the game terming the ceremony “a brisk farewell” that “seemed more awkward than an honor” to Johnson. Fans interviewed for the piece blamed the obviously soured relationship between Johnson and the team on “resurfacing allegations of Johnson’s sexual misconduct.” (Deadspin’s reports on the many sexual abuse accusations lodged against Johnson through the years, including several from teenagers he was mentoring, caused ESPN to cancel the airing of a 30 for 30 documentary, Down in the Valley. The documentary fawned on Johnson for getting the arena built while ignoring mention of the sexual-abuse allegations. Johnson announced he would not seek another term as mayor shortly after ESPN’s cancellation.)
The KOVR-13 piece ended with video of Johnson leaving the arena before halftime with his wife, disgraced Secretary of Education also-ran Michelle Rhee. There was no sign of the basketball.