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NBA 75 Series: #48 Gary Payton

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Ranked #48 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is arguably the greatest defensive point guard of all time, while also being one of the games greatest trash talkers, is “The Glove,” Gary Payton. Payton was born in Oakland, California on July 23, 1968, to his parents Al and Annie Payton. Payton was one of three children in the household growing up, having a brother Brandon, and sister Sharon.

Payton started playing basketball early in his childhood and would eventually make his way to play his high school years at Skyline High. Payton would commit to play his college basketball for the Oregon State Beavers from 1986-1990. During his time as a Beaver, Payton would instantly make a name for himself, being selected as a All-American, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1987, making his presence felt as an lockdown perimeter defender averaging 1.9 steals as a freshman!

He would continue accumulating awards at the collegiate level by being named a three-time Pac-10 selection, even being on the cover of Sports Illustrated his senior season as the best player in college basketball. Once Payton graduated he would hold numerous school records in points, field goals, assists, steals, and three point field goals. What makes his records more impressive is he still holds those records till this day, over 30 years later, aside from points and three-point field goals.

After an impressive college career, Payton would go on to be selected second overall in the 1990 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder). He would struggle his first two seasons with the Sonics, averaging just 8.2 points during that span but was instantly a defensive menace from day one, averaging two steals per game as a rookie.

Ultimately, Payton was known for his intimidating defense, quick hands, and elite defensive instincts. He was one of the cockiest and brash trash talkers in league history, using it to get into his opponents heads while fueling his intensity. He helped lead the Sonics to the 1996 NBA Finals with his partner in crime, and skywalker, Shawn Kemp, but fell to the Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-led Bulls team that held the NBA record for wins in a season with 72 games in the regular season.

Payton is considered one of the greatest defenders of all-time, and arguably the greatest defensive guard ever, being the only point guard to win DPOY (1996) in the awards 39-year history. The only guards I would say are on or near his level defensively are Dennis Johnson and Walt “Clyde” Frazier. He was one of the toughest defenders on Jordan in the finals, holding him to just 23.7 points on 36.7% shooting in the last three games of that series.

He played his 13 of 17 NBA seasons in Seattle, where he unfortunately could never capture a title, but, he would later go on to win a ring as a role player in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat, with Shaq, Wade, and Alonzo Mourning.

Payton is also a nine-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA, nine-time All-Defensive First team, won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and led the league in steals (1996). If you wanted someone who was the ultimate trash talker, competitor, and needed a defensive stop, “The Glove” was the one you would call.


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