HOUSTON – The day did not belong to Gary Payton. He merely took a predictable step from Hall of Fame nominee to finalist for the Class of 2013, was one of 10 candidates to advance through the North American committee, and on the same Friday it was announced that Roger Brown, Richie Guerin, Russ Granik and others had been elected.
This could become Payton’s year, though. He is the most-deserving candidate with NBA ties to be inducted into the Hall when the second and final round of voting is revealed April 8 at the Final Four in Atlanta, there is a chance he will be enshrined with friend Spencer Haywood, a fellow Las Vegas resident and former SuperSonic, and it could be happening within months of the NBA returning to his beloved Seattle.
That would be enough being on the good side of the basketball gods for one year, except that Payton he has more than an emotional rooting interest in the group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer closing the deal on the Kings sale and relocation: The Glove has, he told NBA.com, had conversations with Hansen about joining the front office of a Seattle operation.
He sees himself as an assistant general manager with a strong voice in personnel decisions – as if the legendary trash talker could have any other kind – and not some famous figurehead with a ceremonial role. (There is no interest in coach.) More than anything, though, Payton sees himself getting back into the NBA after being retired since 2007 following a career as a dominant two-way point guard who would further turn opponents into scorched Earth with his words on the court.
“I would rather be an assistant,” he said. “Right now, you’ve got to work at being a GM. You’ve got to learn a lot. You’ve got take your lumps. I think I would rather take my lumps and be behind somebody and learn it and get taught the right way to do it and then in a couple of years be that type of person.”
And the conversations with Hansen?
“I talk to Chris all the time,” Payton said, adding: “He knows. He’s already knowing anyway that he would want me to be a part of the team anyway. I’ve been with Chris and talked to Chris for a long time.”
Payton was joined by Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Tom Heinsohn (as a coach, in addition to his 1986 induction as a player), Mitch Richmond, Rick Pitino, Guy Lewis, Haywood, Jerry Tarkanian and Tim Hardaway as finalists via the North American committee, the panel that handles the majority of nominees with NBA backgrounds. Anyone who receives support on at least 18 of 24 ballots will be enshrined in the Springfield, Mass., basketball museum.
Dawn Staley, a five-time WNBA All-Star, and North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell advanced through the Women’s committee and face the same voting process in the second round. Those results will also be announced at the men’s Final Four.
Brown’s election from the ABA panel, one of five groups that decide on the honor with a single ballot, will continue a strong Pacers presence at the late-summer ceremony. The four-time ABA All-Star averaged 17.4 points in eight seasons in the red, white and blue ball league and was part of three title teams in Indianapolis.
Guerin was voted in by the Veterans committee after a 13-year career with the Knicks and St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks with six All-Star appearances and a reputation as one of the best all-around players in the game. He was the first New York player to score 2,000 points in a season.
Granik, elected as a Contributor, spent 30 years in the league office before leaving in 2005 as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer. He played a major role in the NBA expanding beyond North America and with many top international players coming to the United States in the early days of the overseas influence.
Oscar Schmidt, a dazzling scorer from Brazil who also starred in Europe, was voted in via the International panel. He is best known in North America for the gold-medal game of the 1987 Pan-American Games in Indianapolis, the day Schmidt scored 46 points to lead Brazil to a victory over a United States collegiate squad with David Robinson, Danny Manning, Dan Majerle, Rex Chapman and others.
Edwin B. Henderson, known as the Godfather of Black Basketball, was elected by the Early African-American Pioneers committee for his role in the expansion of the game.