10 Things You Don't Know About 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee Gary Payton
Gary Payton is a deserving inductee in the 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame, and he's been around for long enough that you probably know a lot about him.
He played for the Seattle SuperSonics before bouncing around from team to team during the early 2000s. He was nicknamed "The Glove" thanks to his shut-down defensive abilities. He loved trash-talking and thrived as a do-it-all point guard who never backed down from the tough assignments.
You probably didn't know that he averaged exactly 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game during his illustrious NBA career, but you likely could have guessed numbers that were in the right ballpark.
Let's dig a little deeper and get to know Gary Payton on a level beyond what you typically hear.
He Thinks He's Behind Iverson's Practice Rant
What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when Gary Payton and Allen Iverson had "a few too many."
According to The Glove himself, it was at such an occurrence that he revealed his secret for staying so healthy throughout his NBA career: not practicing. And of course, Iverson took that to an extreme with his infamous practice rant.
Perhaps it would have helped Iverson to practice a little more, though. In 22 career games against Payton, he averaged 28.4 points and 5.9 assists per contest but went only 9-13 in head-to-head battle.
Almost Retired After His Rookie Season
Gary Payton had lofty expectations for himself after he was drafted at No. 2 in the 1990 NBA draft.
Thanks to a lack of playing time (27.4 minutes per game) and a coaching situation that he wasn't exactly happy with, the point guard seriously considered retiring after his rookie season, according to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper:
If we wouldn’t have changed coaches. I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore.
I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that. He’s like, ‘It’s going to be better. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.’ As soon as coach Greg came there, I changed my whole mentality. I went back to the guy that I was at Oregon State and the guy that I was in Oakland, California (his hometown).
Fortunately for the Seattle SuperSonics, they did change coaches, replacing K.C. Jones with George Karl midway through the 1991-92 season. And the rest is history.
Big Fan of John Stockton
This has become big news lately, but it's still worth mentioning just because it's such an insane statement. That doesn't mean it's not true.
It's just insane.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, Payton told the world that John Stockton was tougher to guard than Michael Jordan:
John Stockton is because I liked him when I was playing basketball. Everyone said he was dirty. He wasn't as athletic as us. But he was smarter than us. We knew what he was going to do. We knew he was going to set [tough] picks. We had all the videos on Utah. We were so dumb. We would get caught up with the picks and get mad at him. He would shoot eight times and make nine. Shoot eight free throws and make seven. He'd have 15 assists and four steals. A complete game. That's just the way he was and I idolized him.
It's also worth noting that math probably wasn't Payton's favorite subject when he was growing up. I've checked all the records, and I'm pretty sure that Stockton never had a game in which he shot eight times and made nine buckets.
Payton would go on to say:
Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn't say nothing and you couldn't figure him out. He'd keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things.
So, did Payton actually have more success against Jordan than Stockton? Let's take a look at their per-game numbers in head-to-head matchups against The Glove, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
His Wife Might Like Michael Jordan More, Though
Michael Jordan might not have earned too much respect from Payton in that interview with Spears, but his wife has a different perspective.
As reported by The New York Times' Tom Friend in a 1996 article against the SuperSonics, Monique James, Payton's fiancee at the time, asked Air Jordan for an autograph during the '96 NBA Finals. The request came before Game 3, and it's unknown whether Payton knew about it before the game.
The Seattle guard had a solid outing, recording 19 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, but Jordan definitely got the better of him. No. 23 ended up with 36 points, three rebounds and five dimes in a 22-point win that was never even close.
Add in getting to give his opponent's fiancee his autograph, and you can see that it's pretty clear who won the individual battle.
He Doesn't Like Rajon Rondo...or Does He?
Gary Payton has never hesitated to share his opinion on current players, but he's flip-flopped like a politician when it comes to Rajon Rondo.
Back in 2008, Payton suggested that the Boston Celtics point guard didn't even deserve his ring, comparing him to the towel-waving John Salley. The Glove claimed that Rondo landed in the perfect situation and was noticeably annoyed that he had to give the floor general some credit.
But then, in the recent interview with Spears, Payton had completely changed his opinion:
I've always liked Deron Williams because has the same mentality as me. They don't play defense like we did. But [Williams] does do it on both ends of the floor and wants to…I like him a lot. Another guy I like a lot and a lot of people think I dislike him is [Rajon] Rondo. He can't score like I did, but he does everything else like I did.
Does that mean that Rondo has improved infinitely over the last five years? Does it mean that Payton simply realized the error in his ways?
Regardless, it's good that one of the all-time greats now recognizes the prowess of one of the current studs.
Won't Have His Jersey Hang Anywhere but Seattle
Gary Payton's No. 20 is an iconic jersey, but that doesn't mean it's going to be retired in the near future.
The talented point guard, as he said in the Spears interview, refuses to have his threads hung up in the rafters for any team other than the Seattle SuperSonics.
There is nothing they can do. I'm sorry. It's nothing against Oklahoma City. I never played in Oklahoma City. I would never disrespect the Seattle fans like that.
I'm very confident [a team will return to Seattle]. It wouldn't be a thing not to retire my jersey. But I know that's where it should be. It will be there sooner or later. It could be years. If I'm 70 and they get a team, hey, so be it. It will be great just as long as it will go up in Seattle.
Since Payton last put on the No. 20 jersey for the Sonics in 2003, no player has worn it.
That includes both the Seattle and OKC portions of the franchise's history, as the number may as well be retired. Just don't expect that to become official until Seattle gets another team.
Almost Led His College Team in Everything as a Senior
Gary Payton was an absolute stud for the Oregon State Beavers during his 1989-90 senior season.
He was a consensus First-Team All-American, led the squad to a No. 5 seed in March Madness (though the Beavers were upset by Ball State in the first round), earned a Sports Illustrated cover and almost led his team in every major category.
While playing more minutes than anyone else, Payton scored 25.7 points per game to pace Oregon State. Earl Martin was the No. 2 scorer, all the way back at 11.9 points per contest.
Payton also led the team in assists and steals per game, and he wasn't far off in rebounds and blocks. His 4.7 rebounds per game trailed team-leader Martin's 5.2 and Scott Haskin's 4.8, and his 0.5 blocks per contest were third on the team.
Not too shabby.
Quite High on the NCAA Career Steal and Assist Leaderboards
However, he doesn't get praised enough for his legendary exploits in the college game. While his professional numbers are more impressive, you have to remember that college sees more players come and go, and it's easier to put up big stats against lackluster teams.
Only 21 players in NCAA history have ever recorded more swipes, and he ranks 11th in career assists. Those leaderboards are littered with players most NBA fans have never heard of, so Payton's name stands out rather dramatically.
Appeared on "Hang Time"
If you grew up in the '90s, you might remember NBC's show about a high-school basketball team with one female player: "Hang Time."
It ran from 1995 through 2000 and featured a ridiculous list of guest stars, primarily because the NBA and NBC were partnered up and the league basically required its biggest names to go make guest appearances. There was essentially a guest star on every episode during the show's first few seasons.
As you can probably guess from the show's appearance here, Gary Payton made a cameo. He played himself on the October 11, 1997 episode named "Not a D'Amata."
And he was only one of many to make guest appearances.
Dick Butkus played Coach Mike Katowinski during multiple seasons, and other notable names to appear include Kobe Bryant, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning (on the pilot episode), Grant Hill, Mitch Richmond, Muggsy Bogues, Glenn Robinson and so many more.
Played Himself on "After the Sunset"
"After the Sunset" came out in 2004 and featured quite a few big name actors. But even Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson and Don Cheadle may have been overshadowed by some brief cameos.
Payton actually has a number of movies on his resume, including "Like Mike," "Eddie" and "White Men Can't Jump." But those are too well known to appear here, hence the under-the-radar crime movie about a master thief.
And believe it or not, it wasn't Payton who played the thief. That may have been a first for his professional career.
No offense meant to The Glove's acting chops, but this probably isn't a movie you want to go rent.