NBA Player Profiles: The Glove, Gary Payton
When people talk about the very best defensive point guard there ever was in the NBA, Gary Payton gets mentioned. He was All-Defensive First Team for nine years in a row. He led the NBA in steals in 1996, when he was also the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Tall for a point guard at six-foot-four, strong, with quick hands, Payton deserved his nickname of “The Glove” because of his great defense. But Payton did more than that, he was a great scorer, passer and while it took most of his career to get there he was also a champion.
Gary Payton started his NBA career with Seattle. He was pick 2, behind Derrick Coleman, in 1991. He started all 82 games that season and had 2 steals a game. That was the first of nine seasons of his career when he would finish in the top 10 of the NBA for steals. In 1996 when he led the NBA in steals he averaged 2.9 per game. For his career he had 2,445 steals, which is fourth on the all-time list. Stockton is first, Kidd second, and Jordan is third. In 1996, Payton, Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics nearly defeated Jordan and the Chicago Bulls before losing the finals in six games.
After 999 games for Seattle, and averages of 15.6 points and 7.4 assists, Payton was part of a blockbuster deal when he went to Milwaukee for Ray Allen. It was a short stay there as the next season, 2003-04, he joined the Lakers as a free agent. Payton and Karl Malone signed with Shaq and Kobe to try to win a championship. They got close, but lost in five games to Detroit in the finals. He would be traded to the Boston Celtics and in 2005-06 he would rejoin Shaquille O’Neal by signing with his new team, the Miami Heat. Payton was the backup point guard, behind Jason Williams, but still played 28.5 minutes a game. Payton, Shaq, Dwyane Wade and the Heat won the NBA title that season by defeating the Dallas Mavericks. Payton played one more season with Miami before retiring. He played 1,335 games in his career.
Payton was on All-NBA teams nine times. He was an All-Star nine times. He also won two Gold Medals for team USA at the Olympics. Payton was also one of the most intimidating guards to ever play, his physical defense was one thing and he also added mind games with his talk on the court. It wasn’t talk, he backed it up.