Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame

Sep 9, 2013, 8:21 AM | Updated: 10:29 am
NBA All-Star Gary Payton, a member of the 2013 class of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame, gestures during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Payton was inducted on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, Mass. Sunday had a certain Seattle flair.

“As players, we dream of this moment but we don’t expect to be standing here,” said former Seattle SuperSonics point guard Gary Payton. “But I really like my chances of being here.”

Payton, better known as “The Glove,” was one of the greatest defenders – and verbose players – of his generation.

“It was a beautiful struggle. Playing for my father, and getting tortured by him, even when I was great. Overcoming obstacles in high school, like not making grades and missing out on playing my whole sophomore season,” said Payton as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “At this moment, I understand the reason for those hurdles and I appreciate the silver lining that followed, like becoming an All Star, an Olympic gold medalist, and a World Champion.”

Payton is the only NBA player with 20,000 points, 8,000 assists, 5,000 rebounds and 2,000 steals to his name.

“I played hard because I wanted to win every time,” he said of his career, which lasted 17 seasons, nearly 13 of them with the Sonics. “It was all for my crazy love for the game.”

Payton chose to have a Spokane native who played at Gonzaga – Utah Jazz great and NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton – introduce him at the ceremony.

Stockton said it was an ultimate sign of respect. “We knocked heads for a long time, Gary and I. There were heated battles. There were tough battles. Sometimes we won and sometimes we lost. But I think the respect has always been there, and for him to ask me here – it’s been a highlight.”

Payton called Stockton the “hardest person he ever had to guard.” Yes, even harder than the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan.

And during the ceremony, we managed to learn something new about Payton – that even he can fall victim to what he calls a “George Foreman moment.”

“I want to thank my kids – Raquel, Gary Jr., Gary II,” he said.

Boxer George Foreman named five of his sons George, one daughter Freeda George Foreman and the other daughter Georgetta Foreman.

Two former college coaches were inducted as part of the second straight 12-member class, the largest in the Hall’s history – Jerry Tarkanian, 83, who led UNLV to the 1990 NCAA championship, and Guy Lewis, 91, who took Houston to five Final Fours. Tarkanian, who had heart surgery less than two months ago, came on stage with a walker. Lewis was in a wheelchair. Both smiled as they received standing ovations.

Also inducted Sunday into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were Bernard King, who averaged 22.5 points in 15 NBA seasons with five teams; North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell; five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley; former Knicks guard Richie Guerin; former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik; and Oscar Schmidt, who played in five Olympics for Brazil.

Report by KIRO Radio’s Owen Murphy with contributions from the Associated Press.

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