Jason Kidd had a great career in the league, in which he played multiple times and won many accolades and one Larry O’Bryan trophy. He shared rookie of the year award with Grant Hill, but even before any of these things, he was turning heads in the Bay Area. He was a high school phenom, and in words of great Gray Payton, he was LeBron long before LeBron was even in the NBA.
“People don’t know, J was the first LeBron [when it came to the attention surrounding one player] coming out of high school.”
Gary Payton took him under his wing, mentoring him on the court. While giving an interview for ESPN, Kidd said Payton locked him down on defense immediately. On top of that, he was always trash-talking Kid saying he wasn’t good enough.
“He wouldn’t let me score. [And] he would tell me you are not going to score … that I was soft and that I wasn’t good enough. And for a kid in high school that was built up to be this great high school player, it was very humbling and hard to swallow.”
He admitted that Payton’s defense and trash-talking almost made him think about quitting basketball. Maybe this tutoring molded him into a high-school phenom Payton talked about.
In his teenage years standing at 6-foot-4 and NBA ready, he drew national coverage. He was compared to Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy while balling in St. Joseph (Alameda) High School. The school had 122-14 record and won two state championships. During that time the demand to see him play made the school to move their home games to the Oakland Coliseum Arena. That was a challenge for a school that had just under 500 students because they had to play in the arena of average seating for 12,000 people.
During his high-school days, he played pick up games with the NBA players such as Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway alongside his good friend and mentor Gary Payton. Playing with those guys while wearing braces on his teeth explains the fact why he was the nation’s highest recruited player. He did all that in an era without social media and highlight videos that prove the point that his talent was off the charts. When we look at his career from this perspective, the buzz was on point, as he was one of the best point guards of his era and the best example of how you don’t need to score to dominate the game.