When the Sacramento Kings drafted Jimmer Fredette in 2011, they didn’t exactly hide their intentions. As Aaron Bruski wrote here:
Jimmer Fredette, the most talked about player in this year’s NBA draft, was selected No. 10 overall by the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
30 minutes later, the Kings had a splash page with his likeness up ready to sell tickets on their website. Within another 30 minutes, Jimmer was trending worldwide on Twitter and was the 20th most searched term on all of Google.
By the time he arrived at the royal airport the next day, the Sacramento fans had gathered en masse to welcome him to his throne, conveniently forgetting the contention by many basketball types that he is a slow, white, geeky chump.
Except nobody actually forgot Jimmer was white, at least if you believe an NBA executive who watched the Kings scout Jimmer.
An NBA executive who sat next to then-GM Geoff Petrie while they scouted Fredette sensed Geoff, also a lottery pick and former long-range marksman, saw some of himself in Jimmer.
“That, along with the desire to land the next great white American player and the millions that would be worth at the gate, is pretty powerful,” the executive said. “Foreign players just don’t connect to your fan base in quite the same way.”
First of all, that’s a pretty loaded statement by the general manager.
Foreign players don’t connect with American fans the same way Americans do? OK, I can buy that.
But white Americans are not the only Americans, and it’s harmful for the general manager to imply otherwise. One pick after the Kings took Jimmer, the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson – born in Los Angeles, attended college at Washington State. Was he not white enough for the Kings?
It’s also important to remember this is the opinion of an outsider, not someone in the Kings organization. This outsider had access we didn’t and that’s why I’m passing along his perception, but it shouldn’t be taken as gospel, either.
If the Kings drafted Jimmer to sell tickets, though, it didn’t work. It never works.
Here’s the Kings attendance, by capacity, before and after drafting Jimmer:
They got a slight uptick Jimmer’s rookie year, but their attendance fell the next season. It rose again this year, when Jimmer barely played.
You can see why the Kings were chasing fans. Just a few years prior, they sold out every game, and that type of attention gets addicting.
Of course, they were winning back then, led by Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie – hardly a lineup of white Americans.
Individual stars rarely sell tickets. Non-star individuals are far less of a draw, even when they’re perceived to be the “right” race for that sort of thing.
Winning teams attract fans. It’s that simple. When teams get distracted by anything other than building a winner, they go wrong.
Again, we don’t know the Kings did that here. Maybe they just really liked Jimmer as a player.
But we know how it turned out. The Kings forced out Petrie and then bought out Fredette.
It’s a lesson any team would be wise to remember if it’s considering drafting a player because he’s a white American.