Grant Napear is perhaps the most polarizing figure in the Sacramento media market. You either love him or you don’t, and he’s okay with that. He is a sports talk host on the Sacramento Kings’ flagship station CBS Sports 1140 and the team’s TV play-by-play voice. Those two roles sound intertwined but really, they aren’t. He is straight-forward, opinionated and in my dealings with him, misunderstood.
When the relocation/arena saga began in 2011, the weight of the world was on Napear. While the Maloof family stood mute, he was contractually obligated to go on the air each and every day and take the abuse. He was the frontline of defense. It was ugly to hear and even uglier to watch. One man, two jobs, no winning on either side.
Before the Kings took on the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night, I had a chance to turn the mic on Grant and ask him some questions that I know are out there.
CK: When you’re on the air, you are ready for a fight this time. Last time around, you were part of the action, but more of a guy who had to answer the questions.
Napear: I’m ready for a fight because this city does not deserve to lose this team, that’s what it really boils down to. This city deserves a chance to keep this team and I’ve been here for 25 years and what’s going on right now is not right. And for that reason, it is, I think my responsibility as a local talk show host with hopefully a large audience to, for lack of a better term, do what I can to rally up the troops and say hey, this is not done yet.
You know this. Deals fall apart all the time. And it’s my contention that if Kevin Johnson is able to come up with owners that have that type of money and an arena deal, it’s my feeling that there is no way in the world the NBA Board of Governors would be able to say no to that. And so it is a fight because there is another city trying to take our team.
CK: Does this feel different for you this time?
Napear: The emotions are the same because I would think the worst thing that can happen to this city is this team moving. So the emotions are the same. You are going to find this strange, but that almost seems like another lifetime ago. I’m trying to reflect back, because I’m so emotionally spent right now, like you are from trying to get all the information. I get up in the morning and I’m on the laptop and I’m working all day long on this, trying to make phone calls.
Maybe it’s different this time because I know that this is it. There is no more tomorrow. Even back two years ago, I thought there was a tomorrow. I really thought, well, there’s still a chance that this thing’s going to drag on. There’s no chance this time. In my heart I believe that this is it. This is do or die. This is now or never. So maybe my attitude is different in that sense. Because I understand the finality of it.
CK: Last time around, you and I sat on the bench before games and I saw the anguish and just the pain. This was an ordeal and it took a lot out of all of us. But this time around, it seems like your approach may be helping you personally. A lighter approach. A fighter’s approach.
Napear: I don’t know, that may be your perception. My approach is, speaking as a fan and not as anything else, I’m approaching this as I am one of the people who have been buying tickets for 25 years and so that’s my approach. My approach is I’m doing this because I’m doing what I think is right. There is no self-preservation here. There is no self-motive here. I’m doing this because this is the right thing to do.
At the end of the day, this isn’t about me, it is about what is right. These fans and this city do not deserve (this). They have not done anything to lose their basketball team. And for that reason, I’m going to fight ’til the end.
CK: How proud are you of not only this fan base, but friends of yours like Carmichael Dave who have done everything in their power to step up?
Napear: There are not enough superlatives for me to describe what Dave’s done. If this happens and we get a new arena, they should put his name somewhere on the outside of the building or do something for him. What he’s done to me is beyond comprehension.
I’m proud and I feel good because there is nothing better than rallying a city for something. And in a small way, I’m doing it. He’s doing it in a large way, but at the end of the day, we’re all doing it for the same reason. He’s not doing it to become famous. He’s not doing it because he’s going to be rich from it. I’m not doing it for self-motives. I’m doing and he’s doing it because we love this city and we’re doing what is right.
You know what? There are a lot of other people that would do what Dave and I are doing, but they don’t have the platform. Dave has the platform and I’ve got the platform and we’re all in.
CK: Do you give Sacramento a fighting chance?
Napear: Absolutely a fighting chance because I would never say never to Kevin Johnson. KJ is going to deliver something. Is he going to be able to deliver the whole package wrapped, signed, sealed and delivered? I can’t say that any more than you can, but Kevin Johnson is going to make this interesting and make this a fight to the end. Is it enough to appease the Board of Governors? To prevent a team from going to such a large market with billions of dollars? Time will tell. But as I said, if he can come up with the funding and the arena, which is not going to be an easy feat, I don’t see how the league could say no.