|Born||July 23, 1968|
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Listed height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Listed weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school||Skyline (Oakland, California)|
|College||Oregon State (1986–1990)|
|NBA draft||1990: 1st round, 2nd overall pick|
|Selected by the Seattle SuperSonics|
|2003–2004||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||21,813 (16.3 ppg)|
|Rebounds||5,269 (3.9 rpg)|
|Assists||8,966 (6.7 apg)|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
Gary Dwayne Payton (born July 23, 1968) is an American former professional basketball player who played the point guard position. Widely considered one of the greatest point guards of all time, he is best known for his 13-year tenure with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he holds franchise records in assists and steals. He also played with the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. Payton won an NBA championship with the Heat in 2006. Nicknamed "the Glove" for his defensive abilities, Payton was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. In October 2021, Payton was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Payton is the first point guard to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, and the only point guard winner in the award's first 39 years, until Marcus Smart was selected in 2022. He was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine times, an NBA record he shares with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. He was also a nine-time NBA All-Star and a nine-time All-NBA Team member. Payton was called "probably as complete a guard as there ever was" by Basketball Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Payton played high school basketball at Skyline High School, along with former NBA player Greg Foster, and headed north in 1986 to attend Oregon State University in Corvallis. At one point, he wanted to attend The University of Texas at El Paso, but Don Haskins later rescinded his offer after Payton was deciding between UTEP and St. John's. In his sophomore year of high school, his grades plummeted and he was declared academically ineligible. His father encouraged him to focus on school, and he was allowed to play again. Throughout his four-year career at Oregon State, he became one of the most decorated basketball players in school history.
During his senior season in 1989–90, Payton was featured in the cover story of Sports Illustrated on March 5 as the nation's best college basketball player. He was a consensus All-American, a three-time All-Pac-10 selection, and both the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and conference Freshman of the Year in 1987. He was the MVP of the Far West Classic tournament three times, the Pac-10 Player of the Week nine times, and named to the Pac-10's All-Decade Team. At the time of his graduation, Payton held the school record for points, field goals, three-point field goals, assists, and steals – all of which he still holds today except for career points and three-point field goals. 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.
Payton was the second overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. In his third career game, Payton recorded his first double-double of his career after recording 13 points and 10 assists in a road win over the Nuggets. On February 23, 1991, Payton recorded his first career triple-double after recording 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in a losing effort to the Suns. The following game, Payton scored only 2 points but dished out 16 assists, a then career-high for him. He joined Slick Watts and Nate McMillan as the only SuperSonics' players to have dished out 16 or more assists in his rookie season. Throughout his rookie campaign, Payton recorded 8 point-assist double-doubles, the most by any SuperSonics' player in history. His average for his rookie season is 7.2 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 6.4 assists per game, and 2.0 steals per game.
In his second season, Payton recorded 2 triple-doubles on the whole season joining Slick Watts and Nate McMillan at that time to have recorded 2 triple-doubles in a season in Supersonics franchise history. He scored a season-high 22 points to go along with 7 assists in road win over the Bullets back in November 19, 1991. His season average is 9.4 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 6.2 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game, and 0.3 blocks per game.
Payton 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 1990s Payton, alongside Shawn Kemp formed the "Sonic Boom". He earned his first of 9 consecutive All-NBA team selections when he was chosen to the All-NBA Third team in 1994. Payton would go on to make the 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 point guard to win the award. 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 after winning a franchise record 64 games and lost in six games to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
Payton feuded with Howard Schultz, who bought the SuperSonics in 2001. When Payton did not attend the first day of training camp in 2002, Schultz decided to trade Payton.
In the middle of the 2002–03 season at the trade deadline, Payton was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Desmond Mason in exchange for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, and Ronald Murray. Payton played the remaining 28 games with the Bucks, averaging 19.6 points and 7.4 assists per game. The Bucks faced the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs, pushing the Nets to six games before losing to the more experienced and well rounded Nets. Payton led the Bucks in scoring (18.5) and assists (8.7) during the series, which included a 20-point, 14-assist performance in a Game 4 Milwaukee win.
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 their first NBA Championship. Payton started in all 82 games and averaged 14.6 points with 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals, but struggled with Lakers coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense, which limited his ball-handling and post-up opportunities. Payton provided offense in games where superstar teammates Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant could not play due to injury, including a 30-point outburst in an overtime win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 4.
Despite injuries to Malone, O'Neal and Bryant throughout the season, the Lakers won 56 games and the Pacific Division. In the playoffs, Payton averaged just 7.8 points per game, but scored 15 points in Games 3 and 6 of the Lakers' semifinals series against the San Antonio Spurs, and scored 18 points to go with nine assists in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers would reach the NBA Finals before falling to the Detroit Pistons in five games.
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 Boston and averaged 11.3 points per game and 6.1 assists as the Celtics won the Atlantic Division 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. Serving as a backup to Jason Williams, Payton averaged 7.7 points and started 25 of 81 games. In the playoffs, Payton did not start but averaged 24.3 minutes a game after averaging 28.5 minutes during the regular season, often playing during pressure situations in the 4th quarter of games. In Game 4 of the semifinals against the New Jersey Nets, Payton hit a critical three-pointer with 56 seconds left in the game to clinch the Heat victory. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on the road against the Detroit Pistons, Payton scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, helping the Heat set the tone in the series. Miami won the series in 6 games to reach the team's first ever Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Miami lost the first two games in Dallas and trailed in the final quarter of Game 3 before a comeback led by Dwyane Wade culminated with a Jason Williams pass to Payton, who faked his defender and hit the game-winning jump shot to keep Miami from falling 3–0 in the series. In Game 5, Payton scored 8 points, including Miami's final field goal with 29 seconds left, to help clinch a one-point victory. The Heat returned to Dallas for Game 6 and won 95–92, securing their first and Payton's only NBA title.
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. His trademark open-mouth, bobbing-head style on the court (combined with his 17 years in the league) led to Payton receiving the fourth-most technical fouls of all time (behind Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Rasheed Wallace) with 250. 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. 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 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.
Payton's nickname of "The Glove" in reference to his defensive skills was popularized during the 1993 Western Conference Finals series against Phoenix.
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 guard Jerry West, said "Gary Payton is probably as complete a guard as there ever was." Kevin Johnson considers Payton "certainly...amongst the best ever" and "just as intimidating...maybe even more so than all-time greats Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Tiny Archibald, and Maurice Cheeks." When asked to classify the best players in each position of the late 1990s and early 21st century, NBA coach George Karl said of Payton, "I don't know who else you'd take at point guard. Some say Jason Kidd. Well, every time Gary went nose-to-nose with Kidd, Gary won that matchup."
Payton's all-time rankings for points (35th) and assists (11th) 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."
His defensive prowess was once described by Kevin Johnson:
"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."
Offensively, Payton was not a particularly strong shooter, but was much more physical than most point guards of his era, preferring to use his 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) body frame and strength to shield defenders on his way to the basket or posting up his opponent in an isolation play. Nonetheless, in his prime, Payton was the "NBA's reigning high scorer among point guards."
He was the only guard to have won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award since Michael Jordan in 1988, until Marcus Smart received the award in 2022. Also, he, Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant share the record for most career NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, with nine. He is currently fifth all-time in career steals. A strong all-around player, Payton also ranks fifth all-time among guards in defensive rebounds though not alone, 12th in offensive rebounds, and 10th in total rebounds for a guard. Among players considered point guards, Payton ranks 3rd in defensive rebounds, 5th in offensive rebounds, and 4th in total rebounds, behind Jason Kidd, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson. In 2021, to commemorate the NBA's 75th Anniversary The Athletic ranked their top 75 players of all time, and named Payton as the 48th greatest player in NBA history.
Statistical analysis shows similar players to Payton include Alvin Robertson and Michael Cooper.
Payton is also considered one of the best defensive opponents of Michael Jordan, and the two players had a high-profile rivalry that culminated in the 1996 NBA Finals. Jordan and Payton have both won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and despite their different positions (shooting guard and point guard respectively), 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 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 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 decided 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 one of the six 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. 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 lowest-scoring quarter in their 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.
Later, of his performance that series, Payton said "You've got to get back at Jordan, you can't back down on him. If you do, he's like a wolf, he's going to eat everything. He knew I wasn't going to back down. I had to realize or see if he is really about being a dog, about this neighborhood stuff. I went at him. It was just me being me."
Many attribute his success to the tremendous work ethic and ability to play through injury 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. 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." Karl Malone was the only player to log more minutes of playing time than Payton in the 1990s. Sports Illustrated labeled Payton's 2003–04 season as the best season ever by a point guard aged 35 or older, with the exception of John Stockton's later years, and Payton continued to play at a high level even as he advanced in age.
In his later years, Payton gained recognition as a clutch performer, hitting several key shots during the Miami Heat's 2006 championship run. In 2006, he was referred to as "obviously...one of the greatest clutch shooters of our time".
Payton is the son of Al and Annie Payton. He married Monique James on July 26, 1997. They later divorced. They lived in Oakland and Las Vegas and have three children: Gary II, Julian, and Raquel. Gary II has played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and the Golden State Warriors, where he won his first NBA Championship. Payton also has another son named Gary Payton Jr. with a different mother. His brother, Brandon, was also a professional basketball player during the 2000s.
Payton is cross-dominant: he was a natural left-handed player who shot with his right hand.
During the 2008–09 season, Payton served as a studio analyst for NBA TV and as an occasional substitute analyst on The NBA on TNT. He was replaced with Kevin McHale for the 2009–10 season. In 2013, Payton was named an analyst for Fox Sports 1's Fox Sports Live. For the 2016 NFL season, Payton provided weekly picks for Sports Betting Dime.
Payton has appeared in Eddie (1996), Like Mike (2002), The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), and also performed a speaking role in the 1999 comedy film The Breaks. He also appeared on The Jamie Foxx Show.
Payton appeared on Onion SportsDome.
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 also gave back to the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), a youth center that he attended in Oakland when he was growing up. In 2001, Payton donated $100,000 to renovate EOYDC's gym – his first big grant in his hometown of Oakland. 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 the Christmas of 2003 he took 10 families from the Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles and let each of the over 40 children have a $100 shopping spree at FAO Schwarz. 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. Payton hosted a radio show in early 1998 on Seattle's KUBE 93.3 station. He played hip-hop including The Roots, Raekwon, Outkast, and Cam'ron. He did it for charity during the NBA lockout. During the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken, he made an appearance alongside former teammate Shawn Kemp.
Since the Sonics' move 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. Despite no official acknowledgement from the Thunder, they have not issued the number 20 to any player since their relocation.
Payton is featured in the documentary Sonicsgate, which covers the team's relocation from Seattle to Oklahoma City. When Sonicsgate won a Webby Award for Best Sports Film, Payton gave the acceptance speech, which consisted solely of the five words "Bring back our Seattle SuperSonics."
Payton is currently working on bringing the NBA back to Seattle, aligning himself with the Oak View Group.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|†||Won an NBA championship||*||Led the league|
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