Skip to main content

Gary Payton recalls the time when he and Shawn Kemp were almost traded away


Before Gary Payton turned into one of the game's legends, he was on the brink of turning into one of the many top prospects who failed to reach their full potential. 


Payton was the second overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. His first two years were subpar as he averaged 7.2 points, 6.4 assists, and 9.4 points, 6.2 assists, respectively. Payton admitted he was lost during his first two seasons in Seattle; his underperformance almost triggered the Supersonics to let him and Shawn Kemp go.

"I'm a young dude coming in at 21-years-old and I don't know what's happening. I struggled. I was with Shawn Kemp and we were struggling and then Seattle started talking about trading us. And then the next thing you know, the ownership came in and said, 'Let's talk, you two. Together. What is the problem?' And I just said I just don't have no guidance. You know I don't have guidance. I don't have no work ethics, I don't want to be here. The coaching staff doesn't support me the way it is," Payton said on ">The Draymond Green Show.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Apart from his lack of diligence, Payton also noted that KC Jones, the Supersonics' head coach during that time, might have affected his headspace. After all, Jones is this legendary figure who won eight straight titles with the Boston Celtics from 1959 to 1966. The man was a teammate with all sorts of legends. Jones's stature somehow intimidated Payton, a young stud trying to adjust to a new life. Fortunately, things changed when George Karl — the Sonics' third head coach in the 1991-92 NBA season — came along. 

New coach

"We went to George Karl and he brought in my savior, like a second father to me, who's named Tim Grgurich. When he came in, he took me under his wing and made me go to summer league. We played in Utah, we played in LA, we played in all of these things. I was in my third year going into summer league. And that's what I needed. I needed a work ethic to do different stuff and I got it. And he put in the post-up game to me, he put in my pressuring the ball 94-feet. He put in all that stuff in my game."

Karl and Grgurick were the mentors Payton needed at that point in his career. In the 1992-93 NBA season, Payton's third year, the Sonics made it to the Western Conference Finals. It would be the start of a legendary career as in the following seasons, Payton would be named an All-Star, win Defensive Player of the Year, and be called The Glove. The rest is history.


George Gervin shares his all-time five and snubs Michael Jordan

"The Iceman" shared a great lineup with players from his era, sharing a few surprising choices.

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley

When Michael Jordan "took things personally" on air against Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley bet against Michael Jordan and paid the price.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

The truth about Stephen Curry’s overlooked defense

In the 2022 playoffs, one could argue that at one point, only Bucks guard Jrue Holiday was a better defender than Steph as Curry held opponents to less than 38% shooting.

San Antonio Spurs forward Dennis Rodman and center David Robinson

“It was like a zoo” — why David Robinson was relieved when Dennis Rodman left the San Antonio Spurs

Dennis Rodman caused a lot of headaches to David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs.

Orlando Magic guard Gilbert Arenas and Miami Heat forward LeBron James

“He never had that year where he says, ‘Eh, frick everybody. I’m trying to get my stats.’” — Gilbert Arenas salutes LeBron James for never chasing stats

The most impressive part about LeBron's statistical achievements, according to Agent Zero, is that he always sacrificed numbers to increase his chances of winning.

Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant on the Nets bench

"This is who I'm playing with?" -- Ben Simmons' group chat incident that might've prompted Kevin Durant's trade request

FOX Sports' NBA analyst Ric Bucher on a single Ben Simmons incident ahead of Game 4 of the Nets' first round against the Celtics that prompted Durant to request a trade