Hello, pull up a chair, the time has come to talk a bit about the 1992-93 Sacramento Kings.
On the surface, there’s not a ton to get overly excited about. They had Mitch Richmond who was cool, at least until he suffered a season-ending broken thumb, and their starting point guard was a 5’7” former slam dunk champ, but that was about it.
Coming into that season, they’d been among the dregs of the NBA for a while. They were the only team to have lost over 50 games each of the prior six years, and they hadn’t won a playoff game since riding a losing record all the way to the 1981 Western Conference Finals.
So the Kings were a bad team, but for a period of time – about a week and change – this bad team dominated more than any other bad team ever had before, more than any average team ever had before, more than any great team ever had before, more than any team ever had before.
When the ‘92-’93 season kicked off under new coach Garry St. Jean, it was initially more of the same: through 24 games, they emerged victorious in only a third of ‘em, and that was coming off back-to-back OT squeakers to even be winning that much. Then they comfortably beat a pretty good Celtics team before things got really, really bizarre.
Heading into December 29th, 1992, there had been 28,806 regular season games in NBA history, of which 12 had ended with one team beating another by at least 55 points. In other words, about 1 in 2,400 games. If you feel like squinting, here is that likelihood represented visually in green (clicking probably necessary):
Then on that lovely Tuesday evening, the basketball gods gave us game #13 with a double-nickel margin when they murdered the Dallas Mavericks. By 58 points. They beat them to a bloody pulp beyond any and all recognition. Now, granted, this was a Mavericks squad that wasn’t nearly as good as their record might suggest. Their record was 2-20. Ain’t no denying it, they were so spectacularly bad it might warrant its own Dorktown content one day. But by no means does their ineptitude write off a 58-point smackdown. After all, every team in the NBA played those putrid Mavs multiple times, and still that game stands as an outlier:
The Kings never relented, dominating every single second of this affair. It was one of just 10 games in NBA history in which one team outscored its opponent by at least 15 points in three different quarters (just three of which have come in the ensuing 27+ years — again, just talking regular season, shouts to anyone potentially recalling Nugs-Hornies). How about that one precious quarter where the Kings weren’t absolutely boat racing the Mavs? Was it close? Did Dallas perhaps even, dare I say, win the quarter? Nope, Kings still outscored ‘em by eight.
Ok, fine. Blowouts of that magnitude happen exceedingly rarely, but they still happen. Major outburst, especially executed by such a lowly team like the Kings — but weird, singular random blips on the radar occur from time to time in sports. They surely enjoyed their New Year’s as the calendar flipped to 1993 and moved on to their next game against Philadelphia on January 2nd.
Remember that green pie slice that’s actually more like a pie needle? Well, the Kings reached their hand back into the haystack once again and beyond all rational odds again emerged with that needle in their grasp. This time, a 56-point obliteration over the 76ers.
It was so bad that Philly allowed Walt Williams to score 40 points off the bench, just the 2nd ever 40-point game by a rookie reserve. Making that seem even worse? Not only did Williams never reach 40 points in any of his other 707 career games in the NBA, he never scored 40 in any of his 105 college games at Maryland, any of his games at Crossland in high school (where any NBA player would be a superduperstar), or any other game he’d ever played in his entire life.
For those scoring at home, that’s a two-game output of the Kings scoring 293 points whilst allowing just 179. That 114-point differential smokes the pack, with the ‘89 Suns a distant runner-up and the only team to post a point differential across back-to-back games that even comes within 20 of what the Kings had just done:
With their margin of victory surpassing 55 in both, they also blow away the field as the next-highest margin reached in each of back-to-back games was those Suns at 46:
Breaking it down by half, Sacramento posted a point differential of at least +28 in three of the four:
To this day, 18 of the NBA’s other 29 teams have never won a single game by 55+ in their entire existence. The Kings, a pitiful franchise, pulled it off in back-to-back games.
We can even extend our sample with similarly stunning results. This two-game main course was both preceded and succeeded by strong wins: a 16-point victory over Boston alluded to earlier was the appetizer, and a 20-point blowout over Denver was the dessert. That’s a beyond-absurd +150 during that 4-game stretch:
But back to the back-to-backs for a sec: if we zoom out and take a look at all of NBA history up through the 2018-19 season, there were 60,231 other regular season games, of which one team beat another by at least 55 points in 17 of them. Or 1 in 3,543. That means the likelihood of any random NBA team doing so in two games straight is 1 in 12,552,849. For some perspective, here are a few hypothetical sports occurrences that would’ve been more likely:
• Alex Smith throwing an interception on four consecutive pass attempts
• Drew Brees throwing an incompletion on 14 consecutive pass attempts
• Blake Bortles throwing a touchdown on five consecutive pass attempts
• Emmitt Smith failing to score a touchdown on 431 consecutive carries
• Peyton Manning failing to throw for a touchdown on 276 consecutive pass attempts
• Peja Stojakovic, the best foul shooter in Kings history, missing seven consecutive free throws
• Steph Curry, the best three-point shooter in basketball history, missing 28 consecutive threes
• Shaq making 25 consecutive free throws
• LeBron James being held under 20 points in nine consecutive games
• Giannis Antetokounmpo missing five consecutive dunks
• Manu Ginobili killing two bats in one game, probably
• Randy Johnson allowing hits to 10 consecutive batters
• Nolan Ryan failing to record a strikeout to 56 consecutive batters
• Babe Ruth going homerless for 234 consecutive plate appearances
• Babe Ruth homering on six consecutive plate appearances
• Bill Bergen, he of career .170 fame, getting a hit on nine consecutive at-bats
And that’d be for an average team pulling that off, but it can’t be emphasized enough: this was accomplished by a squad that had been terrible for years … and this season was not an exception! Across the other 78 games Sacramento played in 1992-93, they lost 73% of them and were outscored by over 400 points.
It’d be ridiculous to imagine even an outstanding team going on a run like this; that an awful team did so makes it one of the most mystifying things in the history of organized athletics. The life lesson here is obvious: don’t work hard to be great, always bank on just randomly stumbling into unprecedented success.