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What do Dustin Pedroia and Ralph Nader have in common?

02.11.11 at 8:35 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In among the updates emanating from Dustin Pedroia Friday afternoon was the second baseman’s assertion that the “2000” Sacramento Kings were the only team he could think of that might match-up with the 2011 Red Sox in terms of overall talent. Well, this just in: He really meant the 2001-02 Kings. (Considering nobody milling about at the Red Sox minor-league training facility had Lawrence Funderburke’s name on the tip of their tongue, the mix-up could be forgiven.)

The message Pedroia was getting across was appropriate, however. That Kings team was really, really good. Good enough to make it to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. They were so good, in fact, that Yahoo! Sports once identified that Sacramento club as one of the Top 10 best NBA teams of the past decade that didn’t win a championship.

But why would Pedroia be so quick to lump Rick Adelman’s team in with what is considered perhaps the most loaded Red Sox roster in team history? Was it his admiration for Chris Webber, or even Mateen Cleaves? Maybe. But why that club still separates itself for the second baseman is most likely for the same reason noted consumer advocate/former presidential candidate Ralph Nader carries a torch for the team.

The Kings were robbed. (Even shamed former NBA ref Tim Donaghy said so.)

With Sacramento one win away from the NBA Finals, the Lakers ended up shooting 27 free throws in the fourth quarter — making 16 of their final 18 points from the foul line — on the way to a 106-102 victory over the Kings. After the game Nader, along with the ‘League of Fans,’ sent a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern saying: “At a time when the public’s confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public’s relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances. That sense was severely broken … during Game 6.”

It was a game that was later identified by Donaghy (the referee who admitted to fixing NBA games) as a primary instance where officiating steered the outcome of the contest. While Donaghy wasn’t part of the crew that day, he did say that of the three refs who worked that day — Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt — two were intentionally shaping the outcome with their calls.

(There is no truth to the rumor that Pedroia helped author the report published on 82Games.com breaking down the Game 6 mystery.)

So who might Pedroia be on that team, the one the second baseman suggests the Red Sox should thrive to become (minus the postseason loss, of course)? Since Spud Webb left Sacramento in 1995, here is our best comp (although we’re open to suggestions):

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