When your dad is Dell Curry, Mychal Thompson, Doc Rivers, or Gary Payton, everyone assumes you didn't have to work as hard to get a chance in the Association. While having an NBA dad has its perks, the extra burden of proving you really belong is something that shouldn't be overlooked. The sons that make it have one thing in common - their dads made sure they stay humble. Gary Payton II's story shows it best.
When talking about his biggest regrets, naming his son LeBron was, well, LeBron's biggest regret. No wonder the young fella told everyone he's going with Bronny - that's a big burden to carry. Gary Payton put the same burden on his son's back, and it only made him stronger - he had big gloves to fill.
If there's one NBA dad you know who didn't let his son cut any corners and made sure he earned everything he had, it's Gary Payton. No doubt he shared all his secrets with the Young Glove, but it was still up to him to earn his place - and it was an uphill climb for the young fella.
For five years, Gary Payton II was in the G-League. He was cut from teams four times in the past six years. And when the same fate was facing him with the Golden State Warriors, he took it on the chin and was willing to do anything to stick around and maybe get another chance.
The Warriors had an opening in the video coordinating department, and Payton II was humble enough to ask assistant coach Jama Mahlalela about applying for that position.
"I was dead serious. If I get cut, I'm going to audition for that job. ... I was just trying to stay around. I'd still be around the game, I could still help, travel whatnot. And then figure it out from there."
Gary Payton II, ESPN
Mahlalela talked to Gary about what it takes to work in the video department, “a willing learner, someone who can get on the court still and play.” Without hesitation, the Young Glove said he'll do it. Fortunately for him, the coaching staff had other plans.
“I'm like, 'Gary, I'm not letting you do that. There is no chance in the world you are going to do that. You are playing for this team.'”
Jama Mahlalela, ESPN
Four days later, Payton II found out he had earned the final, 15th spot on the Warriors roster. Seven months later, he's playing double-digit minutes in the Playoffs for a team that's looking like a title contender.
Earned his keep
In the ESPN story, Kendra Andrews takes us back to his childhood, when Gary Payton II was a kid struggling to read. After he was diagnosed with dyslexia, his struggle started to make sense. One other thing you need to know about young Gary - he didn't want to do anything with basketball.
“I wanted to get away from the sport because of who my dad is, living up to the hype, whatever," Payton says. "I just didn't want to deal with it."
As it turned out, just like his father, Young Glove is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. The first thing you notice when watching him play is relentless tenacity - we know where that came from. But that's not enough to be an elite defender. Gary's secret is simple.
While coming to grips with dyslexia, Gary figured out he picks things up a lot quicker if they are presented to him in visual form. In school, he would often ask teachers “for the concepts to be written out so he could see them.” For him, seeing is much better than hearing. No wonder basketball felt natural to him.
“Watching basketball, I mean, you can see it. You can see what works and what doesn't. It's a really big help. I think it's easier for me to visualize something and then apply it to my game than the other way around. I try to watch as much film as possible.”
Gary Payton II, ESPN
The struggle he overcame in school taught Payton II not to take anything for granted. Instead, it gave him the humility to apply for a video coordinator position.
But as fate would have it, the persistence it took to overcome dyslexia also made him great at watching film. Sounds like a great quality for a video coordinator. Fortunately for Payton II, the Warriors had other plans.