Thursday, August 29th, 2013 at 12:15 pm  |  28 responses

Gary Payton Says He Nearly Retired After His Rookie Season

Frustrated with his play and the coaching in Seattle very early on in his career, Hall of Famer Gary Payton says he almost walked away from the game entirely. Per NBA.com: ‘I was thinking about it,’ Payton said in a phone conversation from his home in Las Vegas. ‘I was like, ‘What am I out here for? This isn’t even what I want to do. I’m not happy.’ I didn’t want to do anything….’ Payton played well enough in 1990-91 to be voted second-team All-Rookie, but the 7.2 points and 6.4 assists for a 41-41 team that finished one place lower in the Pacific Division than the season before was not up to the standards he set for himself as the No. 2 pick in the draft. It was being the starter without getting true starter’s minutes, though, that truly bothered him, the 27.4 minutes per that led him to feel a lack of support from coach K.C. Jones. Owner Barry Ackerley convinced Payton the SuperSonics believed in the young point guard, agent Aaron Goodwin and Payton’s father told Payton to give it time, and so he returned rather than retire or try to force a trade. Jones was fired 36 games into the next season and replaced by George Karl. And when that change included Tim Grgurich coming as an assistant, Payton would meet his destiny as one of the great two-way guards in history. ‘If we wouldn’t have changed coaches,’ Payton said, ‘I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore. I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that. He’s like, ‘It’s going to be better. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.’ As soon as coach George came there, I changed my whole mentality. I went back to the guy that I was at Oregon State and the guy that I was in Oakland, California (his hometown).’”

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  • laistar

    “hall of famer gary payton”.. thats yet to be confirmed

  • Fat Lever

    Yet to be confirmed, but a foregone conclusion.

  • Fat Lever

    Hearing him doubt himself is so odd to me. He was my favorite player growing up, partly because of his, and I’m taking it back to 2009 with this, “swag”. It’s funny how things end up working out or not working out due to one, in this case, somewhat normal change(canning the head coach/Karl stepping in).

  • spit hot fiyah

    he was one of the main reason i fell in love with the game

  • JoeMaMa

    This article shows that it takes more than talent to be a star. We have this romantic notion of young ballers blazing reaching the top due to hard work and “that special something”. I kind of believe that – but those stars also benefitted from the right coaching and mentorship, support from the owner, being put in the right place at the right time, sometimes getting teammates that bring out the strengths and minimize the weaknesses, and were nurtured along with proper development of fundamentals.
    I also say that some players are just a cut above. I don’t think Lebron would’ve faded away without Paul Silas or something. Kobe, Durant, etc, etc. The greats are the greats But by and large, the chips need to line up.

  • RayJr

    Also major injuries being avoided too.

  • JoeMaMa

    Brandon Roy, Dajuan Wagner, Randy Livingstone, Shaun Livingstone, Greg Oden, Jay Williams, Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway (they were the FUTURE of the league)…many examples. Can we put Adam Morrison in this category? He had some BAD luck. Drafted by the HORRENDOUS ON ALL LEVELS Bobcats, then tears his ACL (put him out for 2 seasons), then get on the Lakers, who had no time to develop his game as they were chasing the title. I think he took way too many lumps. Definitely not the next Bird, but better than he had a chance to show.

  • Ishmael Jenkins

    One of the few players who talked a lot of trash, but backed it all up. Glad he kept going.

  • robb

    damn, fortunately it didn’t happen,

  • yourdribbleizcookiez

    you had us until you mentioned adam morrison

  • Dfrance

    My off topic, but Gary related story is the time I saw him get a technical rescinded. It was a National TV game, Supersonics vs TWolves. GP had gotten a tech for some reason earlier in the game. Him and KG got into it later on, and the refs gave them double techs, unknowingly ejecting GP.

    He went to the refs and said(reading lips here) “I’m out the game now, I’m out the game now.” The refs huddled and changed his tech to a personal, but still gave KG a T lol. GP is the only could that can talk himself in and out of a technical.

  • Yknot

    Much props for mentioning Juanny! Wagner was going to kill without the condition he faced. Cavs were going to be great!

  • danpowers

    thank god he didnt quit

  • sosoulful

    if Sebastian Telfair would have fell in the same situation as lance stephenson ( playoff contender, better talent around him, supportive management) he would be a potential all star.

  • danpowers

    just imagine the online-sh*tstorm if smth like that happened nowadays lol

  • Brandan E

    most kids dont even know who dajuan wagner is, but he was one of the heralded players comin out of high school!! before Lebron & lenny cooke it was wagner. i used to live in philly when he scored 100 pts in a high school and it was in the news!

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Darko Milicic…

  • berkamore

    The Glove. Can’t understand why George Karl (yet another reason why I was never sold on the guy) didn’t let him guard Jordan until the Sonics were down 0-3 to the Bulls in the 96 Finals.

    Jordan struggled after that and the Bulls went 1-2 against Seatlle but were still able to close. Always wondered what would have happened if the Glove had been on MJ all along…………..

  • Johnny Bender

    Likely nothing would have happened. I just rewatched those games recently. Jordan simply missed shots he typically makes.


    Payton played good D for sure (as usual). The reason he was not guarding him from game 1 is because his offensive production would have went down also.

    Jordan’s number were not stellar before Payton started guarding him. The overall numbers were down for the series for everyone.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    I hear you bro. It’s funny what pressure and timing have to do with excellence? Many times over the years you watch players in college and you see them dominate and you assume their transition to the pros will be as transformational… I watched Lyn Greer, gone. Who’s he. I’m too young for Sampson, but only just. I saw Wade back in the day at Marquette, and dude was awesome; but IMO there was someone better. Their was this cat on the Marquette team with a HUGE COCKROACH skeleton or something on his forearm, and I thought dude was incredible. I don’t even know his name today. Also, I saw JJ Reddick dominate. I saw Tyler Hansborough (almost) dominate. But nothing there. It’s bizzaro I know.

  • berkamore

    Funny when some players miss shots it’s never because of the D, LOL. Even if it’s three games in a row but whatever.

    As for Payton’s offensive production, it actually went UP when he started guarding Jordan.


  • Zabbah

    Really? You were going to retire after your first season? And do what, what other skills do you have that would make you a million dollars a year? Work in a gas station? My ass. You’d probably have to go back to college (if he didn’t finish his degree), graduate, get a job and make 50k a year. You wanted to quit basketball because of one dumbass coach and settle for making peanuts? Thank God you had ppl like your father telling you not to be such a dumbass. Friggin’ drama queen.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Watching GP in Bulls/Sonics finals series (thanks YT). The Bulls are just such an impressive and awesome team. Watching Jordan in real time is cool, but in slow mo that ish is just incredible. It’s jaw dropping. The commentators realise they’re watching something not seen before. GP was solid, as was Dumars in defence, but how could J adapt? They had to give him something and bada boop, money. In fact, J’s killer instinct is palpable. I remember watching him as a kid then going down to the park and palming the ball and the scoop under arm reverses.
    Do kids these days go imitate LeBron… by passing to better shooters to win the game…?

  • JoeMaMa


  • Basketball_iQ

    They don’t hear you bro….. Nice take.

  • actionbronson

    Gary was also playing with a torn calf muscle. He never mentioned it to the media but Coach Karl was protecting his injury so he would ladt the series. The stars of today would’ve watched from the sidelines dressed in strert clothes.

  • actionbronson

    He’ll be inducted this year lol…already been elected.

  • berkamore

    Good point, and he didn’t milk that injury or used it as an excuse. That’s the kind of player the Glove was.