Written By: Derrick Bond
With the approach of this years NBA 2013 hall of fame inductee’s just days away from basketball immortality I was curious to know where fans felt Gary Payton ranked on the all time list of point guards? When I think of top point guards the usual names come to mind such as Magic, Stockton, Isaiah Thomas, and Jason Kidd. A few others definitely deserve to be mentioned on that list.
Each one of those men provided something unique whether it be extreme vision, ability to control tempo of a game, or in Mr. Johnson’s case the ability to be 6 ft 9 inches tall and handle the rock like a playground legend. I would personally put Payton at number five on my list behind Magic, The Big “O”(only player to average a triple double for an entire season), John Stockton, and Isiah Thomas.
Those players all were a little better at hitting the open man and were all proven winners. Each won at least a championship except Stockton. Gary won one at the end of his career with the heat in 2006 and wasn’t a focal point of that team but was certainly a contributor hitting clutch shots in the finals. I’ll give Stockton a pass, after all he did play in the prime Jordan era and that guy was pretty good. Stockton also is the all time leading assist and steals leader by far so statistically the case could be made he’s number one on this list. I won’t make that case though.
The “Glove” does set himself apart from this group in a few ways. He is currently the only point guard to ever win Defensive Player of the Year honors which he won in 1996. He is a two time gold medalist (1996,2000). He is fourth all-time in steals (2,445) eighth in assist (8,966) and twenty ninth all-time in scoring (21,813). The only PG ahead of him in scoring is Oscar Robertson. Aside from slashing to the basket, setting up teammates and shutting down the other teams primary perimeter scorer Gary is well documented as one of best trash talkers of all time. Coaches, players, refs (he’s third in most technical fouls behind Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Sloan) and fans everywhere knew if the “Glove” was involved he was going to show you and tell you. The best example of Payton’s combination of defense and trash talking was shown in the 1996 NBA finals.
Midway through the finals George Karl gave Gary the job of guarding Michael Jordan. In his first three NBA Finals, Jordan averaged 36.3 points per game and had scored at least 30 points in 14 of his 17 games. However, in the 1996 Finals, Jordan averaged 27.3 points per game and scored more than 30 points in only 1 of the 6 games. In the last three games of that series with Gary guarding him Jordan scored 23, 26, and 22. In game six which the bulls did win Jordan shot 14 for 19 from the field. Michael Jordan would never score fewer points in an NBA Finals game than his 22 points in game 6, and would never be held under 30 points more than twice in a Finals series, which the Sonics did five times.
The bulls won that series and I don’t think it’s possible for someone to average 27 points a game and be locked down but we can obviously see that Jordan struggled the most against Payton. At 6 ft. 4 inches, a little younger, just as strong and a mouth to match Jordan he frustrated the G.O.A.T. Had the decision come to put Payton on Jordan for the start of that series we might be calling MJ a five time champ. Seriously.
This weekend when you Listen to Gary’s speech take some time think to back to the early/mid 90’s when the Reign man was catching half court “oops” or the Glove was pressuring your favorite scorer 94 feet.