Payton was undoubtedly dominant on both ends of the court. It wasn’t a case where he was a great distributor, but a so-so scorer. No one can accuse Payton of being an outstanding defender, but a so-so shooter. No one could say he didn't have post game, especially because he showed plenty of times that he could put anyone on the block and give them the blues.
No, Gary Payton could do everything you want a point guard to do and more. He was the total package, and for that, appreciation will be paid. It’s time to show some love to The Glove.
Some people’s final images of Payton were as a member of the Miami Heat and in the ’06 Finals to help the Heat win and eventually secure their first NBA title. Others know Payton as the man who, for a while, brought all sorts of ruckus to NBA TV. Dare say, it’s almost as if Payton and Chris Webber were on their way to being a version of the on-court duo of Payton and Kemp; setting each other up perfectly, each of them making NBA TV entertaining and bringing life to an otherwise dull and boring production. They had you wanting to tune in.
While those images of Payton are cool, there are some that will always stick out in my mind. For me, The Glove made playing defense cool. It wasn’t just about moving your feet with your arms outstretched; it was moving your feet, arms outstretched, head going from side-to-side while Payton teased, taunted, and terrorized the opposing guard in front of him. Anyone who plays the game knows this.
There aren’t too many things more frustrating than having the ball and someone constantly harassing you. The thing is you, as an offensive player, know deep-down inside that this man is locking you up, and on top of that, he's talking crazy to you.
That was Gary Payton. He would talk about your haircut, your ugly shoes, how broke you were, and whatever else came to mind. He would talk about you in a way that made you wanna cry. You would want to fight, but didn't take it there for real, because he could whoop you, which made it even worse.
Sure, players have talked crazy on the court for years, but it seemed like they were always the ones on offense. Bird, Jordan, and anyone else we hear about. Gary Payton did his work on defense, and it helped me, and others who grew up playing ball, embrace that side of the game. We wanted to play defense like The Glove.
Another aspect of Payton’s game I absolutely love are the lobs he threw to The Reign Man. As much as fans love some Shawn Kemp (and trust, Shawn Kemp is LOVED over here), those alleys always had a little something extra when The Glove threw them.
They weren’t just passes; the man would fling ‘em up to the heavens, as if he just knew Kemp would go get them. Watching Payton run down the court with a full head of steam, pick up his dribble and loft the rock toward the rim for Kemp to jam is something that I will always remember. I treasured it as a snot-nosed, baby-faced teenager, and I value it as a grown man.
Gary Payton had attitude. Gary Payton had personality. Most of all, Gary Payton had no fear. The man had the perfect mix of all these traits, and for as long as I continue to watch the game of basketball, there’s no doubt in my mind that The Glove is one-of-a-kind.