Golden State Warriors sixth-year guard Gary Payton II is having arguably the best start of his career. He’s got quite the name to live up to though, with Basketball Hall-of-Famer and Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton as his father.
In the 16th of his 17 career NBA seasons, the elder Payton finally earned an NBA title as a role player with the Miami Heat and it’s no coincidence that “The Glove” got his championship after Michael Jordan had retired – for the final time.
Payton of course nearly won his first title 10 years earlier during the 1996 NBA Finals, but, as chronicled at length during last summer’s television mini-series hit “The Last Dance”, the SuperSonics fell to Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, 4-2.
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One of the more famous moments from the series co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix came in the sixth episode when GP2’s dad told the documentary crew that he thought the series “flipped” when he switched to guarding MJ full-time. Jordan’s burst of laughter when he heard Payton’s words ended up being an even more iconic moment from “The Last Dance”.
On Wednesday, during an appearance on 95.7 The Game’s “Morning Roast”, Payton II was asked about Jordan’s epic reaction to his dad’s comments.
Payton II: ‘Between Those [Lines], We Ain’t Got no Friends’
Born on December 1, 1992, Payton II was just three years old at the time of the 1996 NBA Finals between his father and Jordan, so likely had no idea what was going on. Now though, he has some perspective.
“No, I know the battles between them,” he said. “It’s so much respect between them. But on the court, you got a job to do. Between those line, we ain’t got no friends. I know they got so much respect off the court.”
Payton II Averaging Career-Highs in Points, Rebounds, Steals This Season
Following 18 games across two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, 11 games with the Los Angeles Lakers and 32 games with the Washington Wizards across the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 campaigns, Payton II signed his first 10-day contract with the Dubs in April 2021. In 10 games last season, the 28-year-old scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had six steals in 40 minutes of action.
Battling the likes of Avery Bradley and Mychal Mulder for the final roster spot this fall, Payton II earned the nod and signed a non-guaranteed contract on the day of the season-opener last month. The lefty has played in all 14 Warriors’ games thus far this season and has averaged career-highs in points (6.1), rebounds (3.0) and steals per game (1.4), while providing an array of high-flying dunks in the early going.
Payton II is getting decent minutes off of the bench at 12.9 minutes per game and has been a plus-defender. In seven of the last nine Dubs’ contests – Sunday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets and last week’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves excluded – Payton II has posted a plus/minus of at least +10.
In Tuesday night’s marquee blowout win against the Brooklyn Nets, the guard finished with six points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal, and had a plus/minus of +18. It’ll be interesting to see how the younger Payton’s playing time is impacted by the pending return of Klay Thompson, but No. 0 is certainly making a case to remain a fixture in the Warriors’ rotation.
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