On July 2, 2008 my first thought wasn't, "the Sonics are gone." That was my second thought. My first one was, "How will Gary Payton ever be properly honored?"
The sting of losing the Sonics has been bad and has affected me adversely over the last five years. Mostly I've always thought about how will the city of Seattle ever repay Gary Payton for everything that he has done for us? Simply hanging his jersey up in the new arena isn't going to be enough. That is what you do for mere mortals. No offense to the McMillans, Sikmas, Browns, Haywoods, etc. Those guys are all a huge, integral part of Sonics lore and should always be remembered for their accomplishments.
You casually ask a Seattle sports fan or any sports fan in America who the two biggest sports icons in Seattle history are and I will lay money down that nine times out of ten they will say Gary Payton and Ken Griffey Jr.
Just retiring his jersey is not enough. It's not nearly enough for this man who fought to keep the Sonics here, who has attended rallies, kept the issue alive on national sports shows all the time.
It's no longer "GP are you with me!?" We need to change it and show it to "GP we are with you!" Gary Payton turned the Sonics from just a local team into a national brand. He represented each and every one of us 82 games a year plus playoffs for twelve and a half years.
He started 1021 regular games of 1027 he played as a Sonic. He also started all 94 playoff games as a Sonic.
Here is what should happen:
1. First home game against the Warriors (GP's childhood team) is when we should retire Payton's jersey and number.
2. One of the cross streets at the new arena must be renamed to Gary Payton Lane. Can't be street, boulevard, avenue or street. Has to be lane. It only makes sense because of the basketball reference.
3. A statue of GP needs to be erected and put at the entrance of the arena. Every fan needs to be greeted by him on the way in.
4. First night in the new arena there needs to be an insignia on both ends of the court. The insignia would read, "Gary Payton Court."
I know that might seem like a lot, but with everything the man has done for us; the Sonics and basketball of Seattle, I still don't think it's enough. Making him the most honored and revered sports figure in the history of Seattle sports is a good start though.
What do you think? What does he deserve?