A sit down or stand up with The Glove
Gary Payton was a gritty player, a tough player, and a chatty player. He was also a hilarious interview. The NBA could use more characters like him.
Interview conducted November 2006
Jacobs: How much community service do you do?
Payton: I do a lot. I got a Christmas coming up at Target. My foundation has been doing it for 15 years. My foundation just hooked up with Antoine’s (Walker) foundation. We’re going to take 150 kids apiece, give them 200 dollars apiece, and go to Target. I usually do it at Toys R Us, and I used to take needy kids, like who have cancer or can’t come to the Target stores, and I bring them in buses. We’re going to have 300 kids, and they’re going to all be there. Me and Antoine’s going to walk around, help them pick out something for their families and stuff like that. We do a lot of this. I do a lot of community service. I pick five kids a year, and give them scholarships to go to school. we give them certain amounts of money. It depends on what your GPA, and then I give them the scholarship.
SJ: What’s the most fulfilling part of this?
GP: Just to see these people come and have smiles on their face. Some of these people don’t really get the opportunity to eat on Thanksgiving, or have presents during Christmas. For us to give them this, and then they come by and they’re crying and all that, it makes you feel like you’ve done something., and done something worthy. It makes you feel good about it. And this is what we want. We want to see this on their face.
SJ: It goes to show you there’s more then just playing basketball in the NBA.
GP: O yeah. We’re just fortunate that we have made it in the NBA and got this opportunity. But we need to give back too. Because we were at this stage in our life too, where we didn’t have more money, and we were doing the same thing. I grew up in Oakland, CA where I see the same thing. When I get an opportunity to give back to these people I understand where they’re coming from, because I’ve been in that same situation too.
SJ: Last year you win your first title with the Heat. It’s got to be an incredible feeling. You’ve waited so long. You were like Marino only now you finally get that title.
GP: 16 years. I waited 16 years, and it was a blessing for me to get. I’m happy that I got it. It completed my career now. Hopefully I can go on and get into the Hall of Fame and all that stuff..This is great. Especially I did it with a team I like. 15 guys. We were acting like we were brothers, we are brothers really. This is what we do. We all have a good relationship with each other. We all hang out with each other. Everybody comes over each others houses.
SJ: Sounds like a real tight knit group.
GP: Real tight knit. We do everything together. We play poker together. We play cards together. We do everything. We bowl, shoot pool. Everybody does everything together. And when we go somewhere, we always call one of the other guys to see if they want to go to dinner with us or whatever. It’s one of those things where we just feel real comfortable with each other.
SJ: How do you fare when you’re bowling or playing poker. Are you good at any of it?
GP: Poker I’m no good. Bowling I’m mediocre. Pool I’m great. Probably me or J-Will is the best on the team. (Asks Earl Barron who is the best at pool). Earl is probably one of the better poker players. Pool he’s nothing. Bowling he’s nothing. So that’s how I go. That’s how we go. We communicate with each other like that.
SJ: They weren’t kidding when they said you had some personality.
GP: I’m the personality of the team. I keep everybody rolling. We keep everybody laughing. It’s just fun, we just have fun with each other.
SJ: What was it like on that parade down Biscayne Boulevard. I was there watching you guys drive down the street? It must have been ecstasy, high on life right there?
GP: Incredible. Incredible feeling. Especially when you see all of the fans that came out, the 250,000 people that came out. We were screaming, yelling, shooting water guns, hitting everybody, and having a great time. That’s a great feeling. I don’t think too many people have the opportunity to feel that feeling. We had a chance to do it and we had a chance to give back to the fans, and have them come out and appreciate us. It was nice.
“It’s a glorious life, but it’s hard. It’s really hard.”
SJ: That first night when they’re unveiling that championship banner at American Airlines Arena: Crowd’s going nuts, national TV, cameras everywhere. What’s going through your mind? Some people think that distracted you guys, and that you got lost in the moment.
GP: I don’t think so. I just think we weren’t ready for the game. That’s all. We wasn’t ready as a team. But all of that stuff was great. It’s one of those things you live down the rest of your life. You can show the videotape to your kids, and your grand kids, and stuff like that. You can look back and say I did this. It was just a great feeling. You have one of those moments, where it’s just going to stay there the rest of your life. Especially if you had your parents, your wife, your kids, and everybody there to see it and witness it. It was cool it was really great. We just wasn’t prepared to play the basketball game. That’s all I thought And it just happens.
SJ: How many more years do you plan to play?
GP: I only think I’m going to go one more year. I got a daughter that’s 18 years old. I gotta take her to college this year. She choose LSU. Shaq convinced her to go there. Then I got a son that’s 15, 14, and 9. So I want to see them grow up. I want to see them go through high school, and I can go to some of their basketball games, some of their functions, some of the stuff that they do like this with their schools, so I can be there to help out and stuff like that and just have a good time with them. They grew up with basketball all their life, so it’s time for me to give back to them, and be a father to them, and go to some of the stuff they want me to go to.
SJ: What’s it like to raise kids while constantly going from city to city. You’re living the NBA life. It’s a glorious life…
GP: It’s a glorious life, but it’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s hard on your family, because sometimes my daughter doesn’t want to move. She doesn’t want to keep moving around cause she gets friend, and she wants to graduate with her friends. So it’s really hard for me right now, because they’re not her. So I’ve got to let her stay with her friends. Let her be that woman she wants to be at 18. And my boys, they don’t want to move. They establish friends and they play basketball and stuff like that. So you gotta let them do that. So it’s hard for them to come twice a month, or whatever. But I value their time when I come.
SJ: What’s something that happens behind the scenes that the media or anybody may not hear about?
GP: A lot of stuff. But I can’t tell you that, because then you’d get the exclusive. We do a lot of stuff, it’s a lot of crazy stuff that goes along in the locker-rooms. But it’s just fun. We keep it between ourselves, and that’s what’s so fun about it, because we don’t let people get out and think it’s crazy or outrageous, and that’s why we don’t let no one know what we do. We have a good time. I just want to let you know we have a good time. All our wives eat together. They stay together. All our kids be together. They go out. Shaq takes all the kids to Gameworks, and he takes them all to the movies. He does this every time at an event. We’re all together.
SJ: So I take it you weren’t shy in high school?
GP: No never. I was the class clown. So you know how that was. I had to keep everybody motivated. But that’s just the way I am. I’m just a talkative guy. I stay talkative, I keep everybody motivated.
Payton’s great work with kids is inspiring. Find Target coupons online and brighten a kid’s life.
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