Gary Dwayne Payton (born July 23, 1968) is a former American professional Basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is best known for his 12-year tenure with the Seattle SuperSonics. He has also played with the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. Payton played point guard for most of his career.

The only point guard ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, Payton is widely considered one of the greatest of all time at that position. He was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine times, an NBA record he shares with Michael Jordan. His tenacious defense also earned him the nickname "The Glove". As the story goes, Payton's cousin called him during the 1993 Western Conference Finals series against Phoenix and told him, "you're holding Kevin Johnson like a Baseball in a Baseball," and the nickname was born.

Considered the "NBA's reigning high scorer among point guards" in his prime, by NBA Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich.

Due to the Seattle SuperSonics moving to Oklahoma City, Payton has openly expressed his desire not to have his retired jersey number in Oklahoma City as part of that team's history. He wishes instead for it to remain in Seattle, where he enjoyed the majority of his career's success and popularity. This seems likely as the SuperSonics' team name, colors, uniforms and trophies are remaining in Seattle for a possible future team to adopt upon arrival.

Payton is currently working on bringing the NBA back to Seattle. He also stated when the NBA comes back to Seattle he want to be part of the team so the team won't be relocated again.

High school and college career Edit

Payton was born in Oakland, California. He played High school basketball at Skyline High School in Oakland, California, along with former NBA player Greg Foster (basketball), before attending Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. In his sophomore year, his grades plummeted, so his teachers would not allow him to play. His dad encouraged him to focus on school, and he was allowed to play again. Throughout his four-year career at OSU, he became one of the most decorated basketball players in OSU history. During his senior year, Payton was featured on the March 5, 1990 cover of Sports Illustrated magazine as the nation's best college basketball player. He was a consensus All-American in 1990; three-time All-Pac-10 selection, and named the Pac-10 conference's 1987 Freshman of the Year. He was the MVP of the Far West Classic tournament three times and was the Pac-10 Player of the Week nine times. He also was named to the Pac-10's All-Decade Team. At the time of his graduation, he held the school record for points, Field goal (basketball)s, three-point field goals, Assist (basketball)s, and steals — the only record which he still holds today. During his career at OSU, the Beavers made three NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT appearance. He was elected into OSU's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

NBA career Edit

Payton was the second overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, and spent his first 12½ seasons with the Sonics. Entering the league to star-studded expectations, Payton struggled during his first two seasons in the league, averaging 8.2 points per game during that span. However, he soon proved himself to be one of the league's top point guards, while, during the 90's Payton, alongside Kemp formed the"Sonic Boom"-one of the most thrilling tandems of all time. He earned one of his first 8 consecutive All-NBA team selections when he was chosen to the All-NBA Third team in 1994. He was selected All-NBA First-Team in 1998 and 2000, All-NBA Second Team in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2002, and All-NBA Third Team in 1994 and 2001. He was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team a record nine consecutive seasons (1994–2002), and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1996, the first guard to have won the award in 8 years. He has been selected to the NBA All-Star Team nine times and was voted as a starter in 1997 and 1998. He was a member of the gold medal-winning 1996 and 2000 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Teams. In 1996, Payton and the SuperSonics, under coach George Karl, reached the NBA Finals and lost in six games to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. In the middle of the 2002-03 season at the trade deadline, Payton was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks in a five-player deal that sent Ray Allen to Seattle. Payton played the remaining 28 games with the Bucks. As an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2003-04 season, Payton, along with Karl Malone, signed with the Los Angeles Lakers to make a run at the NBA Championship. According to his agent, he turned down a $35 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers to sign with the Lakers for the mid-level exception. In reality, the Blazers had a huge payroll at the time and could not have offered more than the same mid-level exception. Despite injuries to Malone, O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant during the regular season, the Lakers won 56 games and the Pacific Division. The Lakers then beat Houston, San Antonio, and Minnesota on the way to the Finals, where they lost to Detroit four games to one.

Prior to the 2004-05 season, the Lakers traded Payton and Rick Fox to the Boston Celtics for center Chris Mihm, small forward Jumaine Jones and point guard Chucky Atkins. While Payton expressed displeasure with the trade, he ultimately did report to Boston and began the 2004-05 season as the Celtics' starting point guard. On February 24, 2005 Payton was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal that brought former Celtic Antoine Walker back to Boston. The Hawks then waived Payton immediately following the trade, and he returned a week later to Boston as a Free agent. Payton started all 77 games he played for the Celtics and they won the Eastern Conference (NBA) before losing in the first round to the Indiana Pacers.

On September 22, 2005, he signed a one-year $1.1 million contract with Miami, reuniting with Walker (who was acquired seven weeks earlier by the Heat), as well as former Lakers' teammate Shaquille O'Neal. Payton finally won his first NBA Championship in his sixteenth season in the league when, on June 20, 2006, the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in game six of the 2006 NBA Finals for a four to two series victory. Payton hit two crucial shots in that series: a game-winning shot in game three that ignited the Heat's comeback in the series (after being down 0-2) and, in game five, the Heat's final field goal in a one-point victory.

On September 6, 2006, the 38-year old Payton re-signed with the defending champion Miami Heat on a one-year, $1.2 million contract. During the subsequent 2006-07 NBA season, Payton continued to climb up several NBA all-time lists: he moved from 17th to 8th in all-time NBA games played, passed John Havlicek and Robert Parish to move into 7th in all-time minutes played, and passed Hal Greer and Larry Bird to become the 21st-highest scorer in NBA history.


Payton is well-known for his trash-talk, and is often considered one of the greatest trash-talkers in NBA history. His trademark open-mouth, bobbing-head style on the court (combined with his 17 years in the league) led to Payton receiving the third-most technical fouls of all time (behind Jerry Sloan and Rasheed Wallace). This, along with other factors, earned Payton a reputation as a difficult, volatile, and somewhat egotistical presence in the locker room, which was further fueled by various fines and suspensions handed out to him by team management during Payton's last few years in Seattle.

However, Payton became much less volatile in his later years, and many players, including Shaquille O'Neal and Antoine Walker, have greatly enjoyed playing with Payton. In Los Angeles, Boston, and Miami, he was recognized as a psychological leader and mentor for many of the younger players. Many view his trash talking not as unsportsmanlike conduct, but as an extension of his natural competitiveness (it was once commented that he cannot stand losing a game of pool or darts in the locker room any more than he could stand losing at basketball on the court). Of his trash talking, Payton has stated "I never take it too far...I just try to talk and get their mind off the game, and turn their attention on me", adding that "sometimes I get accused of trash talking even though I'm not...[referees and spectators] immediately figure you're trash talking. But I could be talking to a guy about what's going on or asking about his family." One of Payton's major beliefs is that "mental toughness" is as much a part of the game as on-court play. In addition, All-Star point guard Jason Kidd has referred to Payton as a "mentor" for the way he treated Kidd growing up in the same neighborhood of Oakland. Payton has said that his own mental toughness was developed in his days learning to play basketball in Oakland: "You learned that you can be friends before the game and after the game. But once the game starts, it's all about business. No jive."

Payton is also known for his large, colorful personality. He has appeared in many movies and television shows, and in 2001, gave a humorous, televised "motivational speech" to his team during the NBA All-Star Game. In 2007, following some degrading comments about Payton's hometown of Oakland by the ever-controversial Charles Barkley, Payton took it upon himself to humorously go around Oakland with a video camera and get some of the locals' opinions on the character and comments of "Sir Charles", as well as providing some of his own. The segment was later televised on Inside the NBA during their coverage of the 2007 NBA Playoffs.

Playing style Edit

Since Payton's career ended in 2007, he has been mentioned among the all-time greatest point guards. Gail Goodrich, who played with hall of fame point guard Jerry West, said "Gary Payton is probably as complete a guard as there ever was."

Payton's all-time rankings for points (21st) and assists (7th) highlight the tremendous offensive contributions he made throughout his career, but he is most widely recognized for his defensive contributions. The Sporting News said in 2000 that Payton was "building a case as the best two-way point guard in history", and asked "If you weigh offense and defense equally, is Payton the best ever?" When comparing Payton to the all-time greats, it has been said that "Payton arguably is the best defender of them all, and his offensive game is better than most." and the two players had a high-profile rivalry that culminated in the 1996 NBA Finals. Jordan and Payton are the only two guards to have won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award since 1989, and despite their different positions, they were well matched for other reasons. Both were prodigious "trash talkers" (Larry Johnson once named Payton, Jordan and himself the best three trash talkers in the league), had legendary competitiveness, and as the 1997 NBA Preview magazine stated, "Payton [was] quick, and strong as an ox", making him the kind of player who could frustrate Jordan defensively. Payton, at 6'4" and with a tough physique, was one of a handful of point guards with the size and body type to guard Jordan.

Midway through the 1996 NBA Finals, Seattle coach George Karl made the decision to assign Payton to play defense as a shooting guard instead of his normal point guard assignment in order to defend Jordan. Though the Bulls won the series, Seattle's (and especially Payton's) defense held Jordan and the Bulls to their lowest offensive output in an NBA finals and "frustrated the best player in the game." In his first three NBA Finals, Jordan averaged 36.3 points per game and had scored at least 30 points in 14 of his 17 games. However, in the 1996 Finals, Jordan averaged 27.3 points per game and scored more than 30 points in only 1 of the 6 games. In a game 5 preview after Payton had held Jordan to a career NBA Finals low of 23, an NBA pregame show described the rivalry of two strong defensive players renowned for their competitiveness.

"[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)
The Sonics won that game by 21 points and Payton held Jordan to 26 points - Jordan's second-lowest-scoring Finals game in his career up to that point. In game 6, which the Bulls would win to capture the Championship, Payton played 47 minutes and Jordan missed 14 of his 19 shots, getting a career Finals low 22 points. By the end of the series, Michael Jordan had been held under 30 points in 5 of the 6 games, including his three lowest-scoring Finals games up to that point (26 in Game 5, 23 in Game 4, 22 in Game 6). Bill Walton, commentating for NBC at the time, said Payton "outplayed" Jordan during the second half of the series, and that Seattle coach George Karl would "rue" the decision to "hide [Payton] from 'the king'" in the early games of the series. During this series, Payton and his Sonics also held Jordan's Bulls to the Bulls' lowest-scoring quarter in the Bulls' NBA finals history. Michael Jordan would never score fewer points in an NBA Finals game than his 22 points in game 6, and would never be held under 30 points more than twice in a Finals series, which the Sonics did five times.


Many attribute his greatness to the tremendous work ethic and courage he displayed throughout his career. In his 17-year career, Payton missed only 25 games, and at one point held the longest active streak for consecutive games played, with over 300. Of those games he did miss, many were due to suspensions or coaches' decisions (particularly in his final season), as Payton was highly capable (and highly willing) of playing through injury. The Sporting News noted in a 2000 article, "Durability always has been one of Payton's strong suits. He has missed only two games in 10 seasons and is generally counted on for nearly a full game's worth of nonstop motion, despite chronic back pain that requires extensive stretching and regular applications of heating packs."

On FSN's "Best Damn Sports Show", Payton said that he would accept $100 million to undergo a sex change and dominate the WNBA.

Charity and community involvement Edit

Payton has made numerous well-regarded contributions of both time and money to the community. He set up The Gary Payton Foundation in 1996 to provide safe places for recreational activity, and to help underprivileged youth in his hometown of Oakland stay in school. He hosts an annual charity basketball game as part of his foundation. Payton and his wife, Monique, have been active in fundraising endeavors for HIV awareness, and Payton has lent many hours and provided tremendous financial support to the Boys & Girls Club of America and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Payton has also donated Miami Heat tickets to underprivileged children. For Christmas, 2005, he gave 60 children $100 Toys-R-Us shopping sprees as part of the Voices For Children program. In 1999 he wrote an autobiographical children's book entitled Confidence Counts as part of the "Positively for Kids" series, illustrating the importance of confidence through events in his own life. In July 1999, Payton was named to The Sporting News' "Good Guys In Sports" list.

    • * Highest vote getter in 1999 and 2000, second highest in 1998 and 2002
* Win shares are an objective statistical measurement of a player's overall contribution to his team's success. Payton is ranked 3rd among point guards since the 1973-74 season when win shares were first compiled, behind John Stockton and Magic Johnson. He is ranked ahead of point guards Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas, and Tiny Archibald. Hall of fame point guards Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy and Walt Frazier played all or most of their careers before 1974.
  • Only player in NBA history to accumulate 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 8,000 assists and 2,000 steals in a career
  • Along with John Stockton and Jason Kidd, Payton is one of only three players to compile 8,000 assists and 2,000 steals in his career
  • Between 1990-91 and 2005-06, Payton was first in the league in total minutes played, games played, and steals, was second in total assists (behind John Stockton), and was third in points (Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal). During this span, Payton also led all guards in offensive rebounds.
  • Seattle SuperSonics Records
  • ranks 1st all-time in points (18,207), assists (7,384), steals (2,107), games played (999), minutes played (36,858), field goals made (7,292), field goals attempted (15,562), three pointers attempted (2,855) and triple-doubles (14)
  • ranks 2nd in free throws attempted (3,726) and three pointers made (917)
  • ranks 3rd in total rebounds (4,240), free throws made (2,706) and defensive rebounds (3,043)

Other Edit

  • 2 Olympic Gold Medals with USA: 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney).
  • Ranked #47 on SLAM's Top 75 NBA Players of All Time in 2003.
  • Ranked #10 on ESPN's Top 10 NBA Point Guards of All Time.
    • In a 2006 poll of 86,000 readers who were asked to rank the ESPN top 10 on various aspects of the game, Payton was considered "best defender" by 48.1% of respondents. Walt "Clyde" Frazier was second, with 11.8% of the vote. Payton and Frazier are the only two point guards to be selected to more than 5 NBA All-Defensive First Teams (9 and 7, respectively), and two of only four players who were selected to 5 or more All-Defensive teams without ever being on an All-Defensive 2nd team (Michael Jordan and Dave Debusschere are the others).
  • In 2005, Payton was #1 on the list of best college point guards of the past 15 years by a reporter for College Hoops Net
  • In a 2008 ESPN article, Payton was named the best #2 draft pick in NBA history during the "lottery era" (1985-present), ahead of Jason Kidd
  • Payton, who is tied for 31st with 9 NBA All-Star game appearances, has been a solid performer in All-Star games, leading his team in assists three times (1995, 1997 and 1998), and in points once (1996). Payton had the two highest single-game assist totals for NBA All-Star games in the 1990s (15 in 1995, and 13 in 1998). He is currently #6 all-time in All-Star game assists and is #10 in All-Star game steals. He is also tied for #1 in All-Star game free throw percentage, having never missed a free throw in any of his 8 attempts. Payton was runner-up to Mitch Richmond for the 1995 NBA All-Star Game MVP award.
  • In 2006, in commemoration of the NBA's 60th anniversary, TNT selected Payton among the "Next 10" players to be added to the list of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, essentially recognizing Payton as one of the 60 Greatest Players in NBA History.
  • In the NBA's 100 Greatest Plays, Payton was responsible for the 4th greatest play in the "Hustle" category, passed to Kemp in the NBA's 5th greatest Alley Oop, and was also featured in the NBA's greatest steals segment.
  • Payton has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times: three times as the featured cover story (in 1990, 1994, and 1996), and three times in a secondary role.
  • Payton has appeared on the cover of SLAM Magazine two times - June 1998 and March 2003.
  • The Seattle Mayor's Office declared June 6, 2000 as "Gary Payton Day".

Statistics Edit

'90-91 Seattle 82 82 27.4 2.01 0.18 3.0 6.4 7.2
'91-92 Seattle 81 79 31.5 1.81 0.26 3.6 6.2 9.4
'92-93 Seattle 82 78 31.1 2.16 0.26 3.4 4.9 13.5
'93-94 Seattle 82 82 35.1 2.29 0.23 3.3 6.0 16.5
'94-95 Seattle 82 82 36.8 2.49 0.16 3.4 7.1 20.6
'95-96 Seattle 81 81 39.0 2.85 0.23 4.2 7.5 19.3
'96-97 Seattle 82 82 39.2 2.40 0.16 4.6 7.1 21.8
'97-98 Seattle 82 82 38.4 2.26 0.22 4.6 8.3 19.2
'98-99 Seattle 50 50 40.2 2.18 0.24 4.9 8.7 21.7
'99-00 Seattle 82 82 41.8 1.87 0.22 6.5 8.9 24.2
'00-01 Seattle 79 79 41.1 1.61 0.33 4.6 8.1 23.1
'01-02 Seattle 82 82 40.3 1.60 0.32 4.8 9.0 22.1
'02-03 Sea/Mil 80 80 40.1 1.66 0.25 4.2 8.3 20.4
'03-04 LA Lakers 82 82 34.5 1.17 0.23 4.2 5.5 14.6
'04-05 Boston 77 77 33.0 1.14 0.16 3.1 6.1 11.3
'05-06 Miami 81 25 28.5 0.88 0.12 2.9 3.2 7.7
'06-07 Miami 68 28 22.1 0.63 0.04 1.9 3.0 5.3


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