Gary Dwayne Payton (born July 23, 1968 in Oakland, California).
Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (some of you have not even seen this team play and its same. I do not have something with Oklahoma team but I believe that everyone that has seen the Sonics, wants them back) at no.2 of 1990 NBA Draft.
Gary Payton show just a little of his abilities during his first two NBA seasons and many believed that he was overrated, shouldn’t be a number two overall draft, will never play at a high level and so on, so forth. But they were wrong he was determined to prove his worth and based on his mad defensive skills, his anticipation and smart play, led the Sonics and developed as one of the dominating point guards of the 90s.
I was one of those guys that didn’t give enough credit to Payton’s abilities and style of play. He was not a spectacular player by himself and his style of play was a beat unorthodox for my preferences. It was not just me though, everyone of us that loved basketball whenever we talked about the Sonics we were always admiring and discussing the achievements and dunks of the other half of the Sonics’ team core, Shawn Kemp. This situation occurred until the 1995-96 season where most of us understood that the reason we loved the Sonics was Gary Payton because it was his ability that made that team so exceptional and took the best of Shawn Kemp.
The critics stopped and changed their minds, they have started know to praise Payton’s game. He became “the glove” a nickname that followed him through his career because of his defensive skills. He was named 6 times in the all-defensive first team throughout the 90s and shares with MJ the record for selections with 9 in total. He also led the NBA in steals in 1995-96 season and he is the only point guard in the history of the NBA that ever won the award of the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, also he was the only guard that won this award through the 90s. Kevin Johnson once said about Payton’s style of play “you think of guys with great hands, like Maurice Cheeks and Derek Harper. Gary is like that. But he’s also a great individual defender and a great team defender. He has all three components covered. That’s very rare.”
Gary Payton and the Sonics was one the best teams of the 90s but they only reached the Finals once (1996). They had a great run in 1993 where they finally got defeated by the Phoenix Suns, after a superb series (4-3), in Western Conference Finals. This blog will definitely present the Sonics’ team of the 90s.
In 1996, this was the year of the Bull in the NBA astrology, Michael Jordan has returned from his short retirement (although it seemed to us like a century) and the Bulls recorded NBA all-time best 72-10 during regular season. Everybody was talking about the Bulls and all the eyes were on Chicago, Gary Payton’s Sonics were at the same season recording a franchise best with 64-18. The Sonics finally reached the finals, but it was impossible to run away from destiny. The destiny for the best teams from the west during the 90s had the name Chicago Bulls. Sonics lost 4-2 and Gary Payton never reached the finals again during the 90s.
As it was expected, Gary Payton was guarding Michael Jordan throughout the Finals. To be more accurate at the beginning of the series Payton was guarding Pippen but at the second half of the series it was ‘the glove’ trying to catch the ‘air’. He was the most difficult opponent that MJ faced in a Finals series, as he actually held him to 27.3ppg. It is important to mention that Bill Walton, commentating for NBC at the time, said Payton “outplayed” Jordan during the second half of the series. “(In Game 4, Jordan had his) lowest output in a Finals game, much of it with Payton guarding him. Though afterwards, Jordan refused to give Payton credit, saying ‘No one can stop me, I can only stop myself. I missed some easy shots.’ The truth is, Jordan finds the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year (Payton) annoying. He views the (young Payton) as impudent, and he would love to have a big game at (Payton’s) expense.” (NBA on NBC Preview, Game 5).
Payton and George Karl did a great job on MJ but unfortunately, for them (and myself, as I was supporting the Sonics in this matchup), it was not enough. In 1996 he was selected as a replacement for Glen Robinson for the Dream Team III roster (if you ask me, he should have been the initial choice and not a replacement).
‘The Glove’ was also known for his trash talking ability, (those that play the game of basketball understand the importance of trash talking in affecting opponent’s psycology and game in general). This characteristic of his resulted in many suspensions, fines and technical fouls but this never bothered him, it was a part of his personality an innate ability.