The franchise began with the Rochester Seagrams (a semi-professional team) from Rochester, New York, that formed in 1923 and hosted a number of teams there over the next 20 years. They joined the National Basketball League in 1945 as the renamed Rochester Royals, winning that league's championship in their first season, 1945–46. They later jumped with three other NBL teams to the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA, in 1948. As the Royals, the team was often successful on the court, winning the NBA championship in 1951. The team, however, found it increasingly difficult to turn a profit in the comparatively small market of Rochester and relocated to Cincinnati in 1957, becoming the Cincinnati Royals.
In 1972, the team relocated again, this time to Kansas City, Missouri, and renamed the Kansas City–Omaha Kings because it initially split its home games between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska; the nickname was changed to avoid confusion with the baseball Royals. After three seasons, the team truncated to Kansas City Kings, but continued to play several home games per season in Omaha, through March 1978.
The franchise again failed to find success in its market and moved after the 1984–85 season to Sacramento, where they presently reside.