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Kings’ fan: all on board

John HartFrancisco Navarro, with his VW van painted in Kings' colors, at his home. Navarro once worked as a marketing director for Arco Arena's production company.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

To look at him, Francisco Lovato seemingly lacks all the trappings of your typical Sacramento Kings fan.

He has no larger-than-life purple foam fingers.



He doesn’t lounge around his North Bloomfield home in an authentic Chris Webber jersey.




Sorry, he owns no Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic or Scot Pollard bobbleheads, either.

He does, however, have what may be perceived as the ultimate fan vehicle: a 1973 Volkswagen bus, painted in white, purple and black tones of the top-seeded team in the Western Conference.

But, the 54-year-old jewelry artist will tell you he was a Kings fan way back when being a fan wasn’t cool.

Lovato was marketing director for Arco Arena’s production company when the Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento. And there were plenty of times Lovato wished he were somewhere else.

“Even back then, Kings fans used to pack the place in,” he said. “You have to remember, Sacramento didn’t have anything else back then.”

Yes, this was before the Kings became toast of River City and Northern California, back when teams like the Lakers used to feast on the perennial also-rans.

And now as they battle Karl Malone, John Stockton and veteran Utah Jazz, Lovato believes the Kings have turned the corner.

“They’re thinking ahead, in tune at almost a cosmic level,” he said.

And the bus, which save for the color scheme has precious few garish details?

“I like understated elegance. It’s getting the job done with simplicity.”

The dashboard has a black cover outlined in purple.

Of course, Lovato has no problem with the fans who mob his vintage Bus in the Arco parking lot.

“Everybody’s thumbs up, they honk. It’s all being part of the home-court advantage,” said Lovato, who ironically has a “For Sale” sign posted in the bus’s windshield.

“It’s the perfect time to sell it to a fan,” he said.

Though he’s a longtime fan, Lovato doesn’t blame others for jumping on the Kings’ throne during the last few years.

“Nobody ever said life was fair,” he joked.

Lovato knows this, for he’s had a ’79 Cadillac adorned in San Francisco 49ers red and gold for a few of the team’s lean years before their return to prominence in 2001.

As for his beloved Kings, Lovato believes if they can get past Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the defending champion Lakers, they’ll win it all.

“You look for the stat leaders and you won’t find them,” he said of the Kings. “But they’re always atop the win column, and that’s what matters most.”


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