Monday, 29 April 2013
GARY PAYTON Feature-PAYTON IN FULL
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
This year there is about to be a lot of chatter down the halls of basketball fame. This time the talk won't be trash though. A true 90's legend and one of the greatest Point Guards of all time is about to be enshrined by Naismith alongside N.Y. legend Bernard King in this years Hall of Fame. Welcome to basketball immortality Gary Payton. You've sure earned it. Talking the talk, and dribbling the dribble all the way to an incredible, successful career.
A player for our generation. Nine times an All-Star, nine times all-defensive along with only Kobe, Jordan and Kevin Garnett. The only P.G. to ever win the 'Defensive Player of the Year' award and one of the only players to ever even cause the greatest of all-time problems. A two time gold medalist who showed the world he was an Olympian as well as one of the NBA's greatest athletes. A skillful and savvy guard. The only thing more slicker than his infamous 'trash talk' was his famous game.
'The Glove' held it down for Supersonic basketball for 13 years. More Seattle than Fraiser Crane, the whole city was listening and watching. Before it was 'goodnight Seattle we lost you' and 'good morning Oklahoma and Kevin Durant and co', Payton was as 90's and Seattle as the Sonics traditional, now throwback jerseys. Laker legend Gail Goodrich said Payton was "probably as complete a guard as there ever was", while Gary's cousin coined the nickname 'The Glove' for his smothering defensive ability. "You're holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove" he remarked. This may not be baseball, but when it came to basketball, whether it be one of Phoenix's brightest scorers or money, the ball was Gary's in the end.
Payton in full was one of not only the games greatest true 'guards', but an offensive talent as well as an defensive one. We're not talking about the talk either. He is known as the NBA's highest scoring Point Guards in his prime and is legendary in basketball lore as a purist like Rakim is in hip-hop. Legendary Seattle grunge outfit Pearl Jam may have originally named there band originally after Mookie Blaylock, but when it came to Seattle basketball it was number 20 who rose above them all like the Space Needle. An out of this world talent who woke up his team like coffee and stirred his opposition. Gary Payton holds the Seattle franchise records for points, assists, and steals. Just like the cities sensational sister team, it was always a Storm when Payton played.
Fresh out of Oakland, California, Gary was a star and a 'Sports Illustrated' cover feature during his time at Oregon State University. The 1987 Freshman Of The Year, already belongs in a hall of his own being enshrined in the OSU's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. With all these accolades it's no wonder Seattle took him with the second overall pick in the first draft of the 1990's. There a true 90's legend was born. A man who almost enjoyed 20 years in the league. Before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul took the basketball worlds attention in Lob City, California there was a 'Sonic Boom' of magnificent, air shattering performances in Seattle. You all thought that was the cities famous rain...but it was reign. As the reignman Shawn Kemp and Payton formed an alley-oop, point/dunk combo for the ages that re-invigorated basketball and would have made the daily dose 24/7 if Youtube was around then. The top ten plays of the week belonged to one of the greatest duo's ever. There was a storm coming and Thunder in Seattle before the city was even stripped of their team, name and colors in favor for Oklahoma.
Even for the 'Sonicless in Seattle' years a retired Payton has been active in supporting his former club. One standpoint was his expression not to have his retired Sonics jersey in the rafters of Oklahoma City. he wants it home in Seattle, where it belongs. That is a good point from a great guard. Working on bringing a team back to his basketball city, Payton was part of the famous documentary 'Sonicsgate' and now his valiant efforts amongst others are giving Seattle it's Sonics franchise back. Sure like no Gary and the team in Oklahoma, it'll never be the same, but we only have to look back to the golden era of the 90's for the good times. A time when Payton was manning the basketball quarterback position like Eli.
Like the number of times Payton cause the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan trouble. The rivalry even stretched to the 1996 Sonics/Chicago Bulls Finals, where in six games The Glove grabbed the bull by the horns and had basketball's Ali on the ropes. Payton boxing clever would get into M.J.'s head with his trash, but get under his skin with his play. Michael may have floated in the air like a butterfly, but Payton stung like a son of a bee. Mike could talk the talk too, but 'The Gloves' 6, 4, 180 pound frame could match up with the G.O.A.T like his words. Jordan's averages almost tailed off by ten against Gary. Sure 27.3 points per game (a great 26 in one of these games, was Jordan's lowest Finals total ever) is still incredible, but when Payton man-handles points away even from the greatest offensive threat the NBA has ever seen you can see why this glove was one of the most smothering and frustrating opponents ever even when he kept his mouth shut.
Gary Dwayne Payton may have never won a ring in Seattle but he sure earned his respect. It was strange to see him leave but in a trade for Ray Allen, Payton found himself in Milwaukee in a small, Point only backcourt with Sam Cassell. The two together had a short but very sweet spell of small basketball skill. Then in one of the craziest offseasons and arguably the birth of superteams, 'The Glove' aligned with 'The Mailman' as Payton and Karl Malone joined Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles with the Lakers. In a Hall Of Fame dynasty extending move the faces of Seattle and Utah basketball, strangely donned purple and gold. It looked good but wasn't all 'showtime' however as the Lakers couldn't get it done against a more complete, champion team in the Detroit Pistons. They tried though and even though a death of a dynasty ensued as Karl, Shaq and even Phil Jackson escaped from L.A., Gary was committed to staying around and making everything work.
Still the truest Point Guard the Lakers had since Magic was traded to L.A's rivals Boston with role player legend Rick Fox for Chris Mihm, Jumaine Jones and Chucy Atkins. This obviously didn't please Payton who was then shipped to Atlanta for former Celtics great Antoine Walker. Still, things weren't working out there either and Payton was released and then returned to Boston. Then G.P. 20 took his talents to South Beach in a reunion with Shaquille O'Neal and also the man he was traded for and then played with in Boston (Antoine Walker) for the Miami Heat. With some crucial contributions and some clutch shots Dwayne Payton helped Dwyane Wade and company to a championship. Giving Gary a well deserved ring that eluded him in Seattle.
The Hall now awaits a man who boasts career averages of 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game. A man who put the city of Seattle and it's Supersonics franchise on his back, not only during his prolific playing career, but also during the dark, dog days of a city that lost his team. A fast talker with a quicker game. One so slick, it was sick enough to cause the greatest player ever displeasure. A man that was not only the face of Seattle and the 90's but one that was the look and that infamous trash talk grin of basketball. This traditional Point Guard helped revolutionise the game with more than his wordplay. Now 'The Glove' will be handed to Naismith, where the Hall Of Fame will hold his memory down forever. When it comes to the 90's golden era of basketball there's nothing like nostalgia and there's no one like Gary.