Gary Payton, who’s popular for his playing days with the Seattle Supersonics, is in the Philippines for the opening of the NBA Store in Cebu City.
Payton was one of my favorite NBA players growing up. I really admired the way he approached the game. He was a two-way player that had swag even before the word “swag” became mainstream.
As a kid, I emulated his playing style — pushing myself to focus, not only on offense, but on defense as well. I took pride locking opponents down. I tried to swipe the ball every chance I got. I was small, but fast. So I knew I had to use my quickness to my advantage.
It was simple for me – I get a steal, it’s an automatic fastbreak layup for me. Easiest two points in the world. I used defense to get points the easiest and best way I can. And that’s all because of Gary Payton.
(Another reason why I rooted for him is because I loved how those Sonics jerseys looked like.)
Back to the story. When I received an invite for the event at NBA Store Glorietta, I was ecstatic. Gary Payton, man. I didn’t get the chance to meet or talk to him personally during his first two visits here, so I made sure I didn’t let this opportunity pass me by again.
I went there to cover for Sports Illustrated Philippines, so I knew I was going to get the chance to interview him.
I was a bit nervous. I mean I only used to watch this dude on television when I was a kid. I watched Payton talk to the other interviewers as we were waiting for our turn. He was pretty candid, and felt relaxed. He acted like… Gary Payton. This made me calm. When it was my turn to ask the questions him, everything went smoothly. Easy. Like a layup in transition after a steal.
I asked him about today’s NBA game and what he feels about all these offensive-minded guards. I brought up the fact that he’s been making efforts to bring an NBA team back to the city of Seattle, and I asked him – if Seattle did get the Sonics back – which current players would he put in the Sonics’ starting five. (He answered: PG – Chris Paul, SG – Steph Curry, SF – LeBron James, PF – Kevin Durant, C – Karl-Anthony Towns)
But the interesting answer came when I asked him to explain why he thinks guarding John Stockton was more difficult than defending Michael Jordan.
This is what he told me:
“Because (when) you think about it, John Stockton had the ball 90% of the time, Michael Jordan didn’t. Michael Jordan would run down and get to his spot, but you have John Stockton who’s bringing the ball up, coming off picks, doing things. You gotta guard him ‘cause he’s cutting, back picking, he’s doing a lot of things. A guy who probably only shot the ball 12 or 13 times, guess how many he made? About nine or 10. Then he goes to the free throw line… if he shot seven or eight free throws, how many is he going to make… about seven or eight free throws. Then you wind up looking at how many assists he have, 15, then all of a sudden how many rebounds does he have, six or five. Then all of a sudden what you say? Next category he got four or five steals. So, look, and he’s the all-time leader in assists in the NBA and the all-time leader in steals in the NBA. So who do you think you would want to guard every night? You look at him all the time, you couldn’t turn your head. Michael Jordan would take a break sometimes. He wouldn’t.”
You can watch the interview here: