It was a great moment. A poignant moment. One that prompted emotions and memories alike. But it was also a sobering reminder that, sooner than later, this city needs to do that ceremony right.

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Gary Payton stole everything. Didn’t matter if you were a rookie picked late in the second round or a future Hall of Famer, “The Glove” was going to swipe the ball from you at some point.

Wednesday night wasn’t about what Payton stole, though. Wednesday night was about making up for something the former Sonic had taken from him.

“I’ve been waiting for that moment,” the Hall of Fame point guard said. “Seattle deserves it and nobody else.”

The moment Payton referred to came during the MTRWestern Sports Star of the Year Awards, just after he accepted the Royal Brougham Award for lifetime achievement. With former Sonics play-by-play man Kevin Calabro by his side, Payton looked up to see his jersey number hanging from the Paramount Theater ceiling, flanked by fellow Hall of Famers Lenny Wilkens and Spencer Haywood.

It was a great moment. A poignant moment. One that prompted emotions and memories alike. But it was also a sobering reminder that, sooner than later, this city needs to do that ceremony right.

“I wish we could do it for real, Payton told the audience. “I will not go to Oklahoma and retire my jersey there. You guys were the ones with me every day.”

There were several themes during the tribute, which preceded other awards such as Male Athlete of the Year (Bobby Wagner), Female Athlete of the Year (Kelsey Plum) and Sports Story of the Year (The Sounders.) Perhaps the most prominent one was Payton’s trash-talking.

Calabro recalled how Gary’s teammates used the term “G-bonics” to describe his on-court language designed to mentally undress opponents.

Playing against Kenny Anderson in an empty arena on the road? “At least nobody will see me take the ball away from you.” To an animated fan taunting him? “You’re paying to see me. I’m not paying to see you.” To the more diminutive point guards he faced? “A mouse is in the house.”

The list went on.

But there were also several testaments to his competitiveness. Calabro noted how Payton averaged 40 minutes per game for five straight seasons, which is unheard of for players today. John Stockton, Chris Mullin and Charles Barkley all lauded Payton’s intensity in a video, explaining how annoying he was to play against in the most flattering way possible. Former Sonics coach George Karl offered on-screen praise as well, and after Calabro rattled off a list of accomplishments (an NBA championship with the Heat, Finals appearances with the Sonics and Lakers, the 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year award and the fourth most steals in league history) the hundreds in attendance rose to their feet to applaud.

Now just imagine if it was 15 to 20 thousand.

Unfortunately for Payton, the Sonics had become the Thunder before the organization had the chance to give him a proper sendoff. The team moved to Oklahoma City, igniting a fan base’s rage and putting his jersey retirement on hold indefinitely.

So while Wednesday night’s presentation was thoughtful and touching, in many ways, it was also incomplete.

Even so, Payton was clearly grateful for the adoration he received Wednesday. It was a typical showing from Seattleites, who Gary said shower him with love anytime he steps out in the city. So he thanked the crowd earnestly, telling folks that despite his birth certificate saying Oakland, he was born in Seattle.

And then he made his next point.

“We deserve a team,” Payton said. “We just gotta get over the hump and find where that team is going to come from. We were never supposed to lose a team…I don’t want it to come 10 or 15 years down the line.”

There are plenty of reasons Seattle needs an NBA team back. The passionate fan base, the rich basketball history, and the pride it would bring the city are among them. But properly honoring Payton should be a priority as well.

As it stands, GP is the greatest player to ever wear a Sonics jersey. You have to think he’s proud of that.

The one thing that would make him prouder? Giving future Sonics the chance to supplant him.