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Gary Payton on trash talk, the All-Star Game, and when the Sonics will return

“By 2021 or something like that, Seattle will come back.”

2017 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Sonics legend Gary Payton recently sat down with the website UPROXX to talk about a number of topics, not the least of which was Seattle’s chances of securing a new NBA team in the future.

Payton was quite possibly the most notorious trash talker during his time as a player. Last month he wrote an article for The Players Tribune where he talked about talking trash to Michael Jordan. So naturally it would make sense to ask him about today’s players and how trash talked has moved from chomping on gum in someone’s face to posting passive-aggressive tweets.

That ain’t trash talk to me. I think that’s just them publicizing what they want to do. It’s always messaging, this social media stuff. They are trying to send a message. You always want to get your followers up. Okay, whatever. That’s not trash talk to me. Trash talk is when you get on the floor and everything comes in the flow. Anything can come out of your mouth when you’re being competitive. Me waking up and plotting something out, that’s not trash talking. When you got a script to what you’re going to do and put it on your page, you wake up and you talk about, “Oh, today, I’m going to talk about this guy.” That ain’t trash talk to me. That’s a setup.

Another thing Payton was well known for was being a lock down defender who could also score the ball. He was asked who in the NBA he thought most fit that description today.

I think the guy that you can compare to me in this era is Kawhi Leonard. He does it on both ends of the court. He plays defense, and he plays offense. He plays the way I did. He’s going to lock you down on the defense side and take it personal over there, then come on the offensive side and go after the same player. He never backs down. He wants to guard the best player all the time, and that’s what he does. He reminds me of myself of being a two-way basketball player.

The interview was conducted in Los Angeles where Payton was promoting this year’s All-Star Game. This year’s event will feature team captains selecting from a pool of players, street ball style, instead of the traditional East vs. West format. When asked about the new team selection method, here’s what Payton, a nine-time All-Star himself, had to say:

To try to make it be more competitive, they’re doing the best thing, I think, this year is when they let the captains pick teams. That’s going to be a good thing for them because then they are your buddies, who are normally not on the same team.

In a separate interview with SLAM, Payton was asked who he would pick as his starting lineup if this format had been around in his day and he was a captain.

It depends because you know how it’s going to go. One person might pick and then my player might not be there. But if I would’ve had an opportunity to pick my four, I would’ve had to go with John Stockton, Karl Malone, Shaquille [O’Neal] and I’d probably try to get Allen Iverson.

Finally, Payton was asked about Seattle’s hopes of bringing the NBA back. Payton has been very vocal about his support for returning the SuperSonics to their rightful place within the league.

It’s just got approval from the state and the city, so we’re going to revamp Key Arena. Then we got NHL already approved. So NHL is going to come in, then that will open up the door for the NBA. With our great commissioner in Adam Silver now, I think he’s going to give us the opportunity to do that. When he gives us the opportunity, if it’s in 2020, 2022, 2024, whatever. He’s going to give Seattle the opportunity to come back and get a team. Seattle didn’t deserve to lose their team that way, to just up and leave. They didn’t deserve that. So I think they’re willing to fund it. When they get a hockey team back there, they’ll have almost every sport there: soccer, football, baseball, and hockey. So that’s what they need. It will be a great sports city again.

Payton was asked a similar question by Sports Illustrated and gave a similar answer, with a similar timeline.

We got a new group coming out right now. Seattle has basically already approved a new stadium. What we need is to get that stadium built. Once we get the stadium built, and we’ve already got the OK to get the NHL in there; once we do all of that, I think Adam Silver will say this city needs basketball back. That will possibly mean getting an expansion team. I don’t think Adam is going to take a team from another city unless they are really, really struggling, and I don’t see that right now. I think it will be in the next couple years. By 2021 or something like that, Seattle will come back. And they deserve it. Basketball never should have left.

There’s more in the interview, including discussion about the BIG3 basketball league, where the Payton-coached 3 Headed Monsters (featuring Rashard Lewis) played in the recent championship game. You can read the whole thing at