High School Hierarchy: 16-20
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
18. Skyline High School, Oakland, CA
NBA Players Produced: Gary Payton, Greg Foster, Eric Fernsten, Peter Thibeaux
Combined Experience: 38 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 3
All-Star Appearances: 9
Hall of Famers: 0
Total Points: 71
I would bet that not many people would guess that NBA legend (and even more legendary trash talker) Gary Payton went to the same high school as the star of Big, but both Payton and Tom Hanks are among Skyline’s notable alums. As for the school’s NBA alums, Payton, Greg Foster and Eric Fernsten also have something else in common: All of them did a little light lifting as reserves on teams that won rings.
You’ve probably heard of: Gary Payton was one of the best point guards of the 1990s/early 2000s, a sure Hall of Famer and, along with Shawn Kemp, was key to an iconic Seattle team that will go down as one of the best NBA teams that never won a title.
Payton’s Sonics career was brilliant. He was one of the best defensive guards of all time, he was one of only two (along with Ron Artest) non-big men to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in the last 20 years, and he finally got a championship ring as a reserve with the Shaq/Dwyane Wade-led Heat team of mercenaries in 2006.
Don’t forget about: For a second-round draft pick, Greg Foster had the perfect journeyman big man career. He’d come off the bench for good teams, he’d rebound, he’d play defense, basically he’d do his job. But something else interesting about Foster’s career? Check out the list of guys he’s played with: Gary Payton in high school, Tim Hardaway in college, and then in the NBA, Bernard King, Dominique Wilkins, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Not a bad collection of signed jerseys Foster had a chance to get. Plus, he won a title with the Lakers in 2001 as a backup big man.
Random fact: It’s impossible to talk about Gary Payton without talking about, well … talk. Payton was known for being one of the best trash talkers in the NBA, a claim he denied much of his playing days: “People categorize us like that because they see us talking to the referees or to other players. We could be talking about what’s going on, how’s your life and everybody thinks you’re talking trash.”
See? He’s completely innocent. Gilbert Arenas provides the counterpoint though: “The rudest thing someone ever said to me was Gary Payton, my first year in the NBA. He scored 16 straight on me in the first few minutes, so I’m nervous. I’m scared. He says, “You’re lucky I’m not an AI type of player. I would score 50 on you in the first half.” To this day, I have to try and score 35 in the first quarter every time against Gary Payton.”
Does this look like a man who wouldn’t clown you?