In a few short nights there is going to be NBA basketball back in Seattle. Sadly, it is not the return of the Sonics. It is the return of Kevin Durant, arguably the greatest player to ever put on a Sonics jersey. It did get me thinking about the greatest Sonic ever.
It’s hard to imagine that this 2013 Naismith Hall of Famer isn’t the first player that will pop into your head when you think of the Sonics. Payton is the first play that pops into my head. I see that #20 talking trash, throwing up lobs, breaking hearts on defense.
We are talking about the Sonics all-time leader in games (999), minutes (36858), field goals (7292), assists (7384), and steals (2107). There are some even smaller records as well.
Think back to his rookie season and the energy he brought to the floor. You could tell that he was going to be something special. The Sonics were not a terrible team. They had a lot of talent, but with Payton he brought something extra that the team was missing.
Gary Payton brought swagger to Seattle.
He brought a lot fo swagger to Seattle and he almost brought a championship to Seattle in 1996. Could the Sonics have beaten the Bulls in ‘96 had they been healthy? It’s tough to say because there were some greats that didn’t come close to beating Jordan in his prime.
It might be the homer in me, but I think the Sonics would have beaten the Bulls in seven had Payton and Nate McMillan both been healthy.
I have had to take some pauses writing this as I flashed back over Payton’s amazing career in Seattle. The lobs to Kemp, the between the legs pass to Pierce, taking John Stockton to the verge of tears on numerous occasions, the dagger defensive plays to save games, the way he’d post up smaller point guards.
At present moment I cannot think of a player in the 90’s that could break another team offensively and defensively like Payton. In his prime there was no better two-way player than Gay Payton.
As we watch Kevin Durant tear down the house that Payton built, I’m going to look up to the rafters and imagine #20 hanging up there. Once the new arena is up and the Sonics are back we know that is going to happen.
What are you favorite Gary Payton memories?