Profile: 9 x NBA All Defensive First Team, 9 x NBA All Star, 2 x All NBA First Team, 1996 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 1990 First Team All American (Oregon St), 2006 NBA Champion (Miami Heat), founder of the Gary Payton Foundation.
I had the opportunity to attend the Ghost Tree Invitational in Sun River, OR this past weekend. Gary was gracious enough to do a brief interview for Pro Cause. We had a great conversation and he got me caught up on his foundation’s work and the other social ventures he supports. Two things struck me during the interview: 1) Gary is a really humble, sincere person. 2) He looked like he could still light it up in the NBA. It was really an honor to speak with him.
Photo: With Gary Payton at the Ghost Tree Invitational in Sun River, OR Aug 13, 2011
Game Changer on the court:
Gary Payton led the 1996 Seattle Sonics to the NBA Finals and later won the NBA Championship with the 2006 Miami Heat – including hitting the most important shot of the Finals. But for me, his ‘no-doubt-about-it’ game changing impact was his defense. 9 x Defensive Player of the Year, 1996 Defensive Player of the Year defense. You could argue he’s the greatest defensive point guard in the history of the NBA. I can’t recall another player that frustrated, irritated and generally stifled opposing players quite like Payton. His nickname (one of the greatest ever), the Glove says it all. He was the rare NBA player where the opposing coach actually had to game plan for his defense. The essence of defense is toughness and basketball IQ. Payton was extraordinary because he had the rare combination of talent, plus toughness and basketball IQ.
Game Changer off the court:
Payton was born in the “ghetto” of Oakland, CA. Plain and simple, his heart and basketball talent afforded him the opportunity to get out of the ghetto and attend Oregon St University. His focus now is for the “4.0 kid that doesn’t have the money or resources to go to college”. His foundation works with these would-be college students coming out of Oakland. He made a great comment about the quality of these kids: “Their brains are not made for junior college…they should have an opportunity to attend a major university”. That said, he’s talking about sharp kids. Bright kids. Motivated kids. Future Game Changers.
Specifically, the foundation provides scholarships to worthy students. Payton personally assesses the students’ grades, resources and overall situation to determine which are the most meritorious. From there, Payton does something really interesting beyond simply providing a scholarship. He serves as a mentor to the kids and works directly with universities to help facilitate further financial aid resources.
This is a terrific way to help manage the process for these kids for two reasons:
1) Payton gives these kids a much needed ” push” into the world of top-shelf, higher education. Once they get in, they’re in a position to earn further financial support.
2) By working directly with the schools to facilitate future scholarships and other financial aid, after the kids have established a track record of success, he opens up more of his own resources to help the next high school graduating class (he mentioned that many of the kids he works with are “on the honor roll and dean’s list”).
Payton’s foundation is a “push” from the ghetto to a top quality education for worthy kids.
Payton also works with Teen Entrepreneurs of Las Vegas (TEOLV). He recently became their national spokesman. TEOLV is a fantastic program that teaches young kids the virtues of starting their own business and then provides them grants to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas. TEOLV is holding a charity golf tournament soon. Follow Pro Cause on Twitter for an update on that event.
Besides his foundation and TEOLV, Payton attends as many charity events as his schedule will allow. He mentioned events everywhere from Oregon to Las Vegas to California to North Carolina. He also regularly supports events for his old Miami Heat teammate, Alonzo Mourning. The Glove is still covering a lot of ground.
Payton was solid. Very cool to talk to. I was so impressed by his authenticity. I appreciate his time and efforts and will be intently following his career and the impact of his charitable work.