- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2011

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (AP) - The cowbells rang loud and proud again.

For perhaps the final time, the faithful following once considered among the best in American professional sports came together Wednesday night to cheer their beloved Sacramento Kings in a heartbreaking 116-108 overtime loss to the rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Not that the score really mattered.

For one night, doom and gloom were trumped by hope and happiness. For one night, the team’s possible move to Anaheim was brushed aside to show what made Sacramento so great.

They came with signs that read, “We Love You!” and “Take My Life. But Not My Kings.”

And the optimism reverberated in the echoes of those trademark cowbells and in the purple-painted faces who came to remember the glory days.

“It feels like old times,” said Patrick Sullivan, 26, sitting in upper deck. “The atmosphere would be so awesome if the reason behind it wasn’t so sad.”

A standing-room only crowd packed things beyond the 17,317-seat capacity, and many arrived well before tipoff. They chanted “Here We Stay!” and “Save Our Kings!”

A few thousand even stayed almost an hour past tipoff, cheering so loud that several Kings players returned to the floor after feeling the vibrations from their locker room.

“No matter what happens,” Kings forward Francisco Garcia said, grabbing the microphone, “this is always going to be our home.”

Some fans were covered in body paint, others wore Kings jerseys going back a decade and a few even donned gold crowns atop their heads. A video montage for “Fan Appreciation Night” was shown before tipoff.

And when the lights went dim and players were introduced, every one _ fans, ushers, vendors, players, coaches, even police officers _ stood and delivered a roar so loud that the building best known as Arco Arena shook to its core.

But not everyone was kind.

There were derogatory chants and angry posters toward Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who were not in attendance, let alone in their usual courtside seats for this one. Instead, fans with Lakers attire sat in the Maloof’s seats.

On the other side of the broadcast table, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez sat courtside. Outside, there was even a small patch of fans wearing black and reading a eulogy, recounting all the great players and victories throughout the years.

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