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Closer Look: Slamson the Lion

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Closer Look: Slamson the Lion

Gain new perspective on the entertaining Kings feline, as the team’s director of mascot operations provides unique insight into the life of the loveable and energetic cat.

Chances are great that if a fan has attended a Sacramento Kings home game in the past 15+ years, he or she has received a high-five or warm embrace from the team’s lovable mascot, Slamson the Lion.

Since 1997, the energetic cat has been pumping up crowds with acrobatic and show-stopping stunts, which include jumping off trampolines, gliding around the court on Roller Blades and snowboarding down flights of stairs.

“I just think he’s a very integral part of the game – he’s in the stands, he’s in the suites, he’s in the crowd – he’s consistent in all of his behaviors – and he basically caters to (fans) that are both young and old,” says Kings Director of Mascot Operations Todd Maroldo. “I really think throughout the years, just being consistent and putting on a good show each night has really helped the crowd (love) Slamson.”

One of the most exciting experiences for the team’s mascot is getting a rare inside glimpse into Sacramento’s preparations during pregame huddles.

“It’s a blast for Slamson,” says Maroldo, who has worked closely with the loveable lion for nearly a decade. “I wish he could get mic’ed up on that because he always gets the insight of whomever is speaking that night … It’s just kind of a surreal moment for him.”

Asked to reflect on Slamson’s many years of entertainment, Maroldo says the deafening cheers at Power Balance Pavilion during the team’s postseason berths top the mascot’s list of favorite memories.

“During the Playoffs in 2003, it was so loud in that arena, he couldn’t hear himself think,” says Maroldo. “That’s probably one of the moments when he really purred. “

Incredibly, with over 600 games and countless charitable appearances on his résumé, the tireless cat has missed only one contest, which was due to circumstances outside of his paws.

“He’s had injuries, but never missed a game (because of them),” says Maroldo. “He missed one game due to the fact he was on the East Coast and couldn’t make it back because of the weather.”

The vibrant feline has also been involved in his fair share of shenanigans and crazy stunts, including napping atop the 90-foot IKEA sign in West Sacramento until fans purchased 1,000 tickets to the 2010-11 home opener and getting kicked out of rapper Nicki Minaj’s rehearsal prior to the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

Maroldo reveals that one of Slamson’s most comical moments was receiving an unexpected show of affection from a future NBA Hall-of-Famer.

“A couple of years ago, he was doing a dance skit, and when he finished the skit, he went over to Shaquille O’Neal and tried to dance with him,” recalls Maroldo. “(Shaq) turned around – he wouldn’t dance – but he grabbed Slamson’s tail!”

Last season, Sacramento’s adored animal, who captured Mascot Video Skit of the Year honors for “Slamwow” in 2009, was one of four mascots – the only one from the NBA – nominated for the Most Awesome Mascot award at Cartoon Network’s Hall of Game Awards, which drew more than 100-million online votes from fans across the world.

“The Cartoon Network nomination was a great experience, and although he didn’t win, it was great exposure,” says Maroldo. “Anytime he’s in the spotlight like that, being recognized for his body of work, because really, that’s what it came down to – he was nominated because basically fans think he does a really great job at what he does – it’s great.”

During a promotional appearance on NBA TV, Slamson easily defeated his former nemesis and host of the Awards, O’Neal, in an impromptu dunking competition off a trampoline.

Maroldo hopes that Slamson, long regarded as one of the top cats in his field, who provides unforgettable and groundbreaking nightly performances, will soon receive the ultimate distinction – an induction into the Mascot Hall of Fame.

“It would be great for him and the organization,” says Maroldo. “I think we’re always trying to achieve the best in our craft, so it would be a tremendous honor for him to be (recognized) with the best.”

Yet, as much as Slamson enjoys entertaining fans with his electrifying feats, Maroldo says the extent of the lion’s influence goes far beyond applause on the basketball court.

“Winning games and getting the crowd up on its feet is phenomenal, but when he can change the outlook on somebody’s day, make them feel (better) and just enhance their day or moment, you can’t put a price on it,” says Maroldo. “Just seeing the looks and smiles on fan faces – that’s what makes Slamson’s job so special.”
Free Throws

–  When the Kings arrived in Sacramento in 1985, fans were greeted by The Gorilla, and for several years prior to Slamson’s debut in 1997, the home crowd was entertained by an alternate lion.

“For a few years, the Kings had the lion, but it was a totally different character than what Slamson is now,” explains Maroldo. “There was The Gorilla, way back in the day, who used to do traveling shows around the NBA. He came to Sacramento a couple of times – this was before mascots became really big – and then he became the Phoenix Suns Gorilla.”
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