Payton Nearly Quit Early In His Career


HANG TIME WEST – Hall of Famer Gary Payton was so down on himself as a player and so frustrated with the coaching situation in Seattle early in his career that he came close to retiring after his rookie season, he told on Wednesday.

“I was thinking about it,” Payton said in a phone conversation from his home in Las Vegas. “I was like, ‘What am I out here for? This isn’t even what I want to do. I’m not happy.’ I didn’t want to do anything….”

Payton played well enough in 1990-91 to be voted second-team All-Rookie, but the 7.2 points and 6.4 assists for a 41-41 team that finished one place lower in the Pacific Division than the season before was not up to the standards he set for himself as the No. 2 pick in the draft. It was being the starter without getting true starter’s minutes, though, that truly bothered him, the 27.4 minutes per that led him to feel a lack of support from coach K.C. Jones.

Owner Barry Ackerley convinced Payton the SuperSonics believed in the young point guard, agent Aaron Goodwin and Payton’s father told Payton to give it time, and so he returned rather than retire or try to force a trade. Jones was fired 36 games into the next season and replaced by George Karl. And when that change included Tim Grgurich coming as an assistant, Payton would meet his destiny as one of the great two-way guards in history.

“If we wouldn’t have changed coaches,” Payton said, “I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore.

“I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that. He’s like, ‘It’s going to be better. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.’ As soon as coach Grg came there, I changed my whole mentality. I went back to the guy that I was at Oregon State and the guy that I was in Oakland, California (his hometown).”

Karl and Grgurich, who would become a familiar pairing as one of the most-respected head coaches and assistants in the NBA, lasted through 1997-98 while winning four Pacific Division titles and the 1996 Western Conference crown. Payton stayed until Feb. 20, 2003, when he was traded to the Bucks and reunited with Karl.

Payton retired — actually retired — after the 2006-07 season, following a championship with the Heat, nine All-Star appearances, nine consecutive spots on the All-Defense team, one Defensive Player of the Year, and two Olympic gold medals. His first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame was announced in February. Payton will be officially enshrined with the Class of 2013 in ceremonies Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.


  1. RAMON says:

    he is well deserved of the hall of fame. in my opinion one of the top five point guards of all time.

  2. Lawrence says:

    Congratulations to Gary Payton on making the Hall of Fame. Amazing Career Stats and great memories for Sonics fans over the years.

  3. RealLakerGM says:

    He was Ivo before Ivo.. You gotta raise your hand to Answer the Question and his happens to have The Glove on it..!!!
    Plus he had a great post game too, don’t forget..!!

  4. RealLakerGM says:

    Trash-talk Payton could definitely coach a team into the Playoffs..!!

  5. TheAll-Star136 says:

    Bring back the Sonics!

  6. JMaine says:

    Gary Payton is why we have guards like Chris Paul, and West brook. That dude is a Bad Man. Too Bad Kemp left, when that went down is when the sonic lost a ring.

    • SuperSonic says:

      Too bad Kemp let himself and his fans down. Seattle got that hopeless centre after Ervin Johnson came along. EJ didn’t do a lot but collected more than double what Kemp got. MJ was the difference between Seattle winning a ring and not winning one. Seattle’s front court had the edge over Chicago. It would have been great for Seattle to have had Payton, Kemp and Allen running the floor.

  7. marlon green says:

    Half of you guys are idiots. Payton’s hall of fame enshrinement is well deserved. He was one of the toughest and best players in his time. And the comments some of you made about him being unhappy but still collecting a check, at least he isn’t one of these lame players of today that just shows up collects a check. At least he was willing to walk away if he wasn’t happy. He is one of the few that played the game because he loved it. And I think Seattle got their money’s worth from him anyway. Congratulations GP!

  8. Micahel Jordan FLAVA says:

    He used to compare him self with GOAT of the Game Michael Jordan ,,,,, than he gaves Up, and reconize that MJ is not from this planet…………………………………………………….

  9. M3lo says:


  10. Roshia Furnace says:

    Congrats GP youre the best.

  11. Morten says:

    Poor Gary… 27,4 mpg. and 41-41 record with a monthly salary of at least 50 thousand dollars a month. It’s a miracle he didn’t kill himself.

  12. priadr says:

    BS. 3rd most technicals of all-time proves he likes to talk it up. He wants to quit after his rookie season in the NBA and fall back on his degree in what? He might have been very unhappy but he is still going to take his pay check.

  13. J says:

    what a legend

  14. Kamote says:

    Still my favorite player to date. A real tough competitor on both ends of the floor with that “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude. Runs his mouth a lot, but not a diva. It would really be great to see how he’d match-up with the top PG’s today. Hats off for the HOF induction, well deserved. I’d hope he’d become a coach someday.

  15. freal says:

    GP was RAWWW. He was one bad mutha….shut yo mouth. On the real though one of the mentally toughest guys that ever played.

  16. AKA says:

    one of my fav player
    enojoyed watch him VS Kobe and shutting him down

    • Lakers-Warriors-Suns says:

      Your grammar is horrible…….

      • pathostikss says:

        At least he speaks more than 1 language, you are so stupid.. but if you are 11 that’s ok
        The REAL horrible thing is your name lol (lakers-warriors-suns… lol)

      • Matsumoto says:

        For the person who wrote one sentence; it is hard to determine how good your grammar is. English is my second language but I love NBA and always like to leave a comment. I don’t mind people point out my mistakes as I can improve but your comment is really not that useful.

      • Phi says:

        It probably took the guy above an hour to carefully write his comment and tripled checked it for grammar mistakes before submitting it just to prove a point -___-

  17. bu says:

    Although KC Jones won championships wl Bird before, I have not seen any really good D & X’s & O’s fm him during those years with the Celtics. Worst thing is, he had no confidence on the bench & he didn’t even try to use them in the regular season to develop them, unlike Doc Rivers.

    It’s probably one thing to say that Rookies or any players need to “earn” the trust of the coaching staff to play more & in the right time. So was that what Jones was trying to do to this super talent? Payton is also a very arrogant personality & young back then, which, Jones probably not so accustomed to deal with.

  18. Trey says:

    That’s intriguing! From almost quitting too the HOF. That’s something I miss watching the glove play along with Iverson 2 of my favorite players of all time.

  19. Neil Young says:

    Shows how tough the league used to be, up until about 2003

    • Pakyaw says:

      Up until about ’99, when Jordan retired from bulls.. *FIXED*

      • Lakers-Warriors-Suns says:


      • E-SY says:

        Yeah right! Like U guys could now just walk in there and take over a game anytime! LMAO!

        The game gets faster and harder every year and the players dominating nowadays are just faster and stronger and more versatile than they were in the 90’s. MJ was of another level, but so is LBJ right now and Kobe, Shaq, D-Wade were right here to fill the gap in between. And while the NBA was fun to watch in the 90’s (and before) it get’s even better every decade!

        “How tough this league used to be…” Pfff….

      • CK says:

        Leage is defenately tougher now days. There was no international player back then. It was just MJ and 5 dominating centers. Leage was tougher my a$

    • alp says:

      pshh if we are talking about in terms of physicality then yea your right but at the same time their are FAR MORE exceptional athletes in the NBA now then there were 10, 20 years ago…

      • SuperSonic says:

        Shawn Kemp, Derrick Coleman and Chris Webber would more than hold their own today. Kevin Garnett couldn’t touch them back in the day.

  20. dwighthoward12 says:

    yea lol well this is all ecause of the bulls!