SACRAMENTO -- The end of the 2017-18 NBA season is upon us, and it comes with some emotional news for Sacramento Kings fans. Legendary broadcaster and former team executive Jerry Reynolds has decided to step away from his full-time position as color analyst for the team.
“I feel like this is the time for me to make a transition in my career. I just don’t feel like I have the interest or the capabilities to be a full-time employee, as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the Kings,” Reynolds said on The Kings Insider Podcast on NBC Sports California.
Reynolds has worked alongside play-by-play man Grant Napear for the past twenty seasons of Kings basketball. He’s an iconic figure on the Sacramento sports landscape, but at 74 years old, the wear and tear of an 82-game season with an intense travel schedule has taken its toll.
“This is strictly my decision,” Reynolds said. “They’ve given me the opportunity to change my mind a couple of times, but I know it’s the right thing. Father Time wins every battle.”
According to Reynolds, the team offered him a long-term contract last summer, but he turned it down in lieu of a one-year deal. After thinking it through, he made the difficult decision to walk away from full-time duty, in part because of long-term health concerns.
“I am a 20-year diabetic and honestly, the last year was tough on me,” Reynolds said. “I’m not trying to work up a pity contest here, but it was a lot tougher for me to take care of my disease.”
In his time with the franchise, Reynolds has been an assistant coach, interim head coach, head coach, general manager, director of player personnel and color analyst. He also headed up the Sacramento Monarchs, who brought home a WNBA Championship in 2005.
“As a broadcast partner, I just have been so blessed,” Napear told NBC Sports California. “I can’t adequately put into words what it’s meant to be with him 82 games a year doing NBA basketball. It’s effortless. It’s fun. It’s not work in any capacity.”
“He’s just a great person and I consider him a part of my family."
An unlikely duo - a New Yorker and and a country boy from French Lick, Indiana - Napear and Reynolds have consistently been considered one of the best broadcast teams in the NBA.
“We’re kind of like an old couple,” Reynolds said of Napear. “He’s 100 miles per hour and I’m 20 miles per hour. New York and Indiana. And it kind of works.”
With his country charm and flair for coining nicknames, Reynolds helped create a broadcast that is uniquely Sacramento. He’s brought a lighthearted approach to the game through good seasons and bad in Sacramento.
“He’s so folksy,” said Gary Gerould, the radio voice of the Kings. “He’s such a people person and he loves to talk basketball. I envy his depth of knowledge and his way of expressing that just makes you smile. He’s unique.”
Reynolds isn’t going anywhere. He will continue to be a fixture in the Kings’ family, both on and off the court. He will represent the team in the community and at team functions.
The details haven’t been fully settled, but the Kings also expect Reynolds to continue to contribute to game broadcasts and Pre/Post shows on NBC Sports California as well as Kings coverage on Sports 1140 KHTK radio.
He has no intention of walking away anytime soon from a loyal fan base that has supported him for the last 33 years, since he came with the team from Kansas City before the 1985-86 season.
“I work for the fans and I owe the fans, and I’ll always feel that way,” Reynolds said. “It’s been an honor and a thrill to get to know them, to work for them and I’ll always owe them.”
With Reynolds stepping away from his full-time role, the team has pegged former Kings shooting guard Doug Christie as his replacement. Christie has worked 10 games per year alongside Napear over the last three seasons as the team groomed him for the position.
“Hopefully my voice is taken in and consumed by our Sacramento Kings fans, and they give me a chance to do me,” Christie said.
The pair also work together on the team’s flagship radio station Sports 1140 KHTK, and Christie has been a fixture on NBC Sports California’s pre and postgame shows for the past three years.
There is no replacing Reynolds, but Christie brings a different vibe to the telecast. He adds energy and excitement, and he’s worked hard to improve at his craft. Napear and Christie have had short opportunities to work together, but it will take time to develop the chemistry that fans have become accustomed to on a nightly basis.
“He doesn’t have an ego,” Napear said of Christie. “He’s unbelievably prepared and he knows the game. It’s actually much easier than I thought it would be. He’s not Jerry and I don’t expect him to be Jerry.”
“He does his job off the court like he did as a player,” Reynolds said of his successor. “He really prepares, he works hard, he thinks it out. I’m not surprised by any of it. He’ll get better and better. He’s terrific.”
It’s tough to step in and replace a legend. Christie won't try to be the next Jerry Reynolds. Instead, he intends to grow into the role and make it his own.
After a 15-year NBA career, including four and a half in a Kings uniform, Christie and his family moved back to the Sacramento area in the summer of 2016. He has a passion for the franchise that he helped lead to the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
“It’s surreal. At the same time, the affinity I have for the Sacramento Kings - I want to see them do something,” Christie said. “To actually be a part of that is a humbling experience.”
The team has planned a video tribute to Reynolds that will play during the season finale against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center. It will be a celebration of a Sacramento legend.