We could nominate him for sainthood. We could erect a statue in front of the downtown arena. We could name a street after him. But at the very least, we should schedule a David Stern Day before the NBA commissioner retires Feb. 1, 2014, because this is the man who saved the Kings.

Again and again.

Stern resisted, explored, implored, engaged, tutored, explained. For all the right reasons – because Sacramento simply did not deserve to lose its only major professional sports franchise – the NBA's most powerful figure refused to allow the much-traveled Kings to morph back into Royals or become SuperSonics, Las Vegas Gamblers, Tampa Bay Bears, Virginia Beach Swimmers.

Or who knows where else those Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Oscar Robertson jerseys would be hanging right now – and don't forget the Monarchs' WNBA championship banner, either – had Stern wearied of the chronic Sacramento-induced headaches and eased into cruise control for the final months of his stewardship?

While the attempted palace coup by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer was the most serious and exhausting threat to the Kings' future in Sacramento, it was far from the first. The Seattle investors stood at the end of a very long line.

"One way or another, we have been living with this for the past decade and a half," state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said last week after the Maloofs agreed to sell their controlling interest to the investment group headed by Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive. "A lot of fits and starts. Some questions along the way. But (this) totally ranks among the highlights of my time here."

Steinberg, who was among the City Council members who approved the $70 million loan when former owner Jim Thomas launched the first direct hit at the franchise in 1997, ranks high on the list of those deserving credit. The list also includes City Council members who approved a term sheet; city officials who repeatedly revised and improved arena proposals; and especially Mayor Kevin Johnson, a native Sacramentan and three-time NBA All-Star who assembled an impressive ownership group and proved to be just as persistent and persuasive as his former boss.

But KJ will be the first to tell you this: Stern showed him the way.

"The commissioner set out very clear guidelines," Johnson said Saturday. "He said, 'If you want to keep a team, go read the NBA bylaws, go read the constitution, and you will see why teams leave under relocation. If you have fans who support the team and can build a building, it's very tough for a team to be pulled from a city. Understand that section and build your case.' "

Stern, of course, has significantly more experience at these relocation squabbles than his counterparts in the NFL or Major League Baseball. Those bylaws he talked about were included in the NBA constitution after the Clippers moved to Los Angeles without league authorization in 1984. While owners seeking relocation subsequently have played by the rules, the league's inability to resolve Seattle's thorny arena issues and preclude the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City five years ago is the itch that occasionally still flares and swells.

Too seldom mentioned is that, historically, timing is an exceedingly significant factor in the success or failure of most stadium and arena ventures. And unfortunately for Sonics fans, when Stern intervened in Seattle, the region was still in the midst of the recession, fractured by political infighting, and afflicted by arena fatigue; previous public contributions for Seahawks and Mariners facilities left little appetite for aiding the Sonics.