SACRAMENTO -- It was summer 2011 and the NBA lockout was in full swing. As part of the filming for the documentary Small Market, Big Heart, we took a small camera to a Sacramento suburb to capture one of the many grassroots movements trying to keep the Kings in town. But this one was different.
You could see the poster boards from blocks away. As you got closer, you could see the exuberance of youth on full display. Boys, not more than 9 or 10 years old, running up and down the street waving signs at every passing car. It wasn’t just a lemonade stand, it was an experience. It was Kids for Kings.
No longer elementary school students, Gill, Wyatt, Jack and Ron, are still known around Sacramento as the Lemonade Boys. It’s a badge that they wear proudly. In the fight to save the Sacramento Kings from relocation, these boys, like so many others in the Capital City, found a voice selling lemonade to passing cars with the proceeds earmarked for a new downtown arena.
On Monday evening before the Kings took the floor for their first ever preseason game at the Golden 1 Center, a special dedication was made outside in the courtyard. Planted along the pathway of David J. Stern drive is a living monument to a group of kids who worked tirelessly to earn money to go toward the building they proudly stood in front of for a photo opp.
In one of the more pointed gestures of appreciation the Kings could possibly have made, a lemon tree, along with a placard, was planted in their honor just outside the main entrance.
“I think it’s amazing and I’m very thankful for it,” Gil, now a freshman at a local Sacramento-area high school said. “I’m glad to be remembered.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” Jack, also a freshman, chimed in.
It’s a simple, yet powerful message. The tree will grow as the boys become men. It will live as a constant reminder of the power of community and how even the youngest of its members can make a substantial contribution.
“I think the tree is really cool and it has that symbolic, like, lasting impact of how our small effort - it started out as nothing, but it grew to become this big deal,” said Ron, the oldest of the group. “Now (the team) is staying here in Sacramento, where its home is and that’s really cool.”
The end total raised by the Lemonade Boys at their weekend venture was less than a thousand dollars. In the grand scheme of building a $534 million arena, it wouldn’t have even paid for a single row of seats, but non-monetary value of their contribution is immeasurable.
Like other Sacramento-based grassroots organizations that fought to spread the fans’ message - Here We Stay, Here We Build, Playing to Win and Crown Downtown, the Lemonade Boys successfully put a face on a city that had lost its sports identity under the tremendous failure of its ownership group.
So many average citizens put their lives on hold in the fight to keep Sacramento’s lone professional franchise in town. The overwhelming support of the people helped create powerful political capital, which Kevin Johnson and David Stern used to help propel them in the fight to keep the Kings from bolting.
The Kings plan to put a lemonade stand in front of the Golden 1 Center with proceeds going toward their youth initiative programs. With any luck, the lemon tree in the courtyard will grow and bear fruit, continuing the legacy of an incredible group of young men.