SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – As Gary Payton put it, time is running out on his extraordinary basketball career that carried him from Oakland, Calif., to immortality.
“We’re like in the fourth quarter and there’s two minutes left,” he said. “One more day and then I’m done. Once I get through this speech I can say my basketball career is officially over.”
Ah, yes, the speech.
Payton provided little clues during Saturday’s news conference about the speech he’ll give Sunday when the former Sonics star is formally inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
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“It’s going to be from the heart,” said Payton, a Bay Area native who played 13 years in Seattle. “I’ll have some notes to keep me on topic, but I want it to be from the heart. I’m going to thank people.
“I’m going to give props to Oakland and Seattle, but basically just tell my story. It’s going to be me just putting it out there.”
Family and friends are laying odds Payton, who garnered the nickname “The Glove” in part because of his tough-guy, on-court persona, will break down and cry during his speech.
“It’s one of those things I just can’t look at my mom because I know how she’s going to be,” he said. “I know a lot of them are going to be over there crying.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who led the Cardinals to a national title in April, and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, who won legal battles against the NCAA, are two of the most compelling figures among the 2013 inductees.
The rest of the class includes former All-Star forward Bernard King, former NBA star Richie Guerin, former ABA standout Roger Brown, former Brazilian sharpshooter Oscar Schmidt, former college coach Guy Lewis, former WNBA star Dawn Staley, North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell, African American basketball pioneer E.B. Henderson and Russ Granik, former NBA deputy commissioner.
However, none of the newest inductees have the star power like Payton, who has used the past three days to reintroduce himself to the basketball community. He was the last to leave Saturday’s news conference after providing introspective answers to wide-ranging inquiries about his 17-year career.
On when he was most dangerous as a basketball player: “From 1996 to 2003, couldn’t nobody hold me. … I could defend whoever and I could score on whoever I wanted to. In 1996, I made my mark when I went to the Olympics, got a big contract, got defensive player of the year, I went to the Finals, I made first-team all-league, first-team all-defense. Everything was going right in my life.”
On his biggest regret: “That 2003 year. That was the worst time in my basketball career. That’s the first time when I felt like I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. Getting traded from Seattle and knowing how it was done was hard.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org