WARNING: The following is simply a wishful fantasy of the writer and has no basis in fact. Dang if it wouldn't be nice though...
OK - Anyone who questions whether I am a fan or a journalist can pretty much have that question answered with this entry. I am a fan. Furthermore since I'm home sick and sucking up cough medicine I'm using my non-journalistic right to enter this one without any proof-reading at all...
It was extremely interesting to see Gary Payton in attendance at Saturday's Storm game. More interesting than just his presence was the fact that he chose to attend with Sonics VP Karen Bryant. Payton's hostility towards the organization has been fairly well documented and I found it a bit odd thathe had contacted the team immediately upon his arrival in Seattle and spent the evening with Karen and other staffers.
I was hoping to have the chance to meet with Gary briefly and discuss his feelings towards the organization and city but did not get the opportunity. Still the obsessed fan in me started to immediately imagine a glorious reunion for the Glove. A chance to see him again in Green and Gold with the #20 and retire as a Sonic. Sure his game is a shadow of what it once was, and sure he fills no real need on the team. It would be 100% gimmick, but I would fall for it. I cannot imagine the roar of the crowd on opening day if they allowed Payton to start alongside Ray Allen in a ceremonial gesture.
If the oganization is really serious about generating fan interest I believe that there are few steps that would have a bigger effect than bringing back Payton on a 1 year contract. If in fact Payton still has concerns about his legacy both locally and league wide I can think of few scenario's which would allow him to shine more than a return. Imagine if The Glove were to return for a single season and save basketball in Seattle. Imagine Gary having to do nothing more than baske in the love this city has for him and generate a buzz. Even better yet imagine him doing so while the team returns to playoff contention after a terrible season last year.
Any type of return would be contingent upon a change in attitude by Payton who seems to have gained a great deal of maturity in recent years. In the twilight of his career he will never again be the number one focus for any team. Any titles he may go on to win will be upon the shoulders of other, younger players and on the court he will be an afterthought. If, as I suspect he still longs to be "the man" and wants to be remembered in glory then he needs to find a new role off the court. A unique opportunity exists here in Seattle for Gary Payton to be an ambassador of the sport and reach out to hundreds of thousands of fans. He would be nothing more than a bit player on the Sonics but his voice in the community could take center stage.
I know that it is nothing more than a silly dream, but for a day at least I want to advocate for the Glove. Both Payton and new Sonics owners Clayton Bennett are in town today. Imagine if they got together and came to some type of agreement? Let Payton close out his career with a championship in Miami as a hero in Seattle. Let him shed his reputation as an acrimonious and hostile person and be remembered as the face of basketball in this city forever.
I LOVE THE GLOVE!!!