Monday, April 29, 2013


The Glove Is On For The Hall.


This year there is about to be a lot of chatter down the halls of basketball fame. This time the talk won't be trash though. A true 90's legend and one of the greatest Point Guards of all time is about to be enshrined by Naismith alongside N.Y. legend Bernard King in this years Hall of Fame. Welcome to basketball immortality Gary Payton. You've sure earned it. Talking the talk, and dribbling the dribble all the way to an incredible, successful career.

A player for our generation. Nine times an All-Star, nine times all-defensive along with only Kobe, Jordan and Kevin Garnett. The only P.G. to ever win the 'Defensive Player of the Year' award and one of the only players to ever even cause the greatest of all-time problems. A two time gold medalist who showed the world he was an Olympian as well as one of the NBA's greatest athletes. A skillful and savvy guard. The only thing more slicker than his infamous 'trash talk' was his famous game.

'The Glove' held it down for Supersonic basketball for 13 years. More Seattle than Fraiser Crane, the whole city was listening and watching. Before it was 'goodnight Seattle we lost you' and 'good morning Oklahoma and Kevin Durant and co', Payton was as 90's and Seattle as the Sonics traditional, now throwback jerseys. Laker legend Gail Goodrich said Payton was "probably as complete a guard as there ever was", while Gary's cousin coined the nickname 'The Glove' for his smothering defensive ability. "You're holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove" he remarked. This may not be baseball, but when it came to basketball, whether it be one of Phoenix's brightest scorers or money, the ball was Gary's in the end.

Payton in full was one of not only the games greatest true 'guards', but an offensive talent as well as an defensive one. We're not talking about the talk either. He is known as the NBA's highest scoring Point Guards in his prime and is legendary in basketball lore as a purist like Rakim is in hip-hop. Legendary Seattle grunge outfit Pearl Jam may have originally named there band originally after Mookie Blaylock, but when it came to Seattle basketball it was number 20 who rose above them all like the Space Needle. An out of this world talent who woke up his team like coffee and stirred his opposition. Gary Payton holds the Seattle franchise records for points, assists, and steals. Just like the cities sensational sister team, it was always a Storm when Payton played.

Fresh out of Oakland, California, Gary was a star and a 'Sports Illustrated' cover feature during his time at Oregon State University. The 1987 Freshman Of The Year, already belongs in a hall of his own being enshrined in the OSU's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. With all these accolades it's no wonder Seattle took him with the second overall pick in the first draft of the 1990's. There a true 90's legend was born. A man who almost enjoyed 20 years in the league. Before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul took the basketball worlds attention in Lob City, California there was a 'Sonic Boom' of magnificent, air shattering performances in Seattle. You all thought that was the cities famous rain...but it was reign. As the reignman Shawn Kemp and Payton formed an alley-oop, point/dunk combo for the ages that re-invigorated basketball and would have made the daily dose 24/7 if Youtube was around then. The top ten plays of the week belonged to one of the greatest duo's ever. There was a storm coming and Thunder in Seattle before the city was even stripped of their team, name and colors in favor for Oklahoma.

Even for the 'Sonicless in Seattle' years a retired Payton has been active in supporting his former club. One standpoint was his expression not to have his retired Sonics jersey in the rafters of Oklahoma City. he wants it home in Seattle, where it belongs. That is a good point from a great guard. Working on bringing a team back to his basketball city, Payton was part of the famous documentary 'Sonicsgate' and now his valiant efforts amongst others are giving Seattle it's Sonics franchise back. Sure like no Gary and the team in Oklahoma, it'll never be the same, but we only have to look back to the golden era of the 90's for the good times. A time when Payton was manning the basketball quarterback position like Eli.

Like the number of times Payton cause the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan trouble. The rivalry even stretched to the 1996 Sonics/Chicago Bulls Finals, where in six games The Glove grabbed the bull by the horns and had basketball's Ali on the ropes. Payton boxing clever would get into M.J.'s head with his trash, but get under his skin with his play. Michael may have floated in the air like a butterfly, but Payton stung like a son of a bee. Mike could talk the talk too, but 'The Gloves' 6, 4, 180 pound frame could match up with the G.O.A.T like his words. Jordan's averages almost tailed off by ten against Gary. Sure 27.3 points per game (a great 26 in one of these games, was Jordan's lowest Finals total ever) is still incredible, but when Payton man-handles points away even from the greatest offensive threat the NBA has ever seen you can see why this glove was one of the most smothering and frustrating opponents ever even when he kept his mouth shut.

Gary Dwayne Payton may have never won a ring in Seattle but he sure earned his respect. It was strange to see him leave but in a trade for Ray Allen, Payton found himself in Milwaukee in a small, Point only backcourt with Sam Cassell. The two together had a short but very sweet spell of small basketball skill. Then in one of the craziest offseasons and arguably the birth of superteams, 'The Glove' aligned with 'The Mailman' as Payton and Karl Malone joined Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles with the Lakers. In a Hall Of Fame dynasty extending move the faces of Seattle and Utah basketball, strangely donned purple and gold. It looked good but wasn't all 'showtime' however as the Lakers couldn't get it done against a more complete, champion team in the Detroit Pistons. They tried though and even though a death of a dynasty ensued as Karl, Shaq and even Phil Jackson escaped from L.A., Gary was committed to staying around and making everything work.

Still the truest Point Guard the Lakers had since Magic was traded to L.A's rivals Boston with role player legend Rick Fox for Chris Mihm, Jumaine Jones and Chucy Atkins. This obviously didn't please Payton who was then shipped to Atlanta for former Celtics great Antoine Walker. Still, things weren't working out there either and Payton was released and then returned to Boston. Then G.P. 20 took his talents to South Beach in a reunion with Shaquille O'Neal and also the man he was traded for and then played with in Boston (Antoine Walker) for the Miami Heat. With some crucial contributions and some clutch shots Dwayne Payton helped Dwyane Wade and company to a championship. Giving Gary a well deserved ring that eluded him in Seattle.

The Hall now awaits a man who boasts career averages of 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game. A man who put the city of Seattle and it's Supersonics franchise on his back, not only during his prolific playing career, but also during the dark, dog days of a city that lost his team. A fast talker with a quicker game. One so slick, it was sick enough to cause the greatest player ever displeasure. A man that was not only the face of Seattle and the 90's but one that was the look and that infamous trash talk grin of basketball. This traditional Point Guard helped revolutionise the game with more than his wordplay. Now 'The Glove' will be handed to Naismith, where the Hall Of Fame will hold his memory down forever. When it comes to the 90's golden era of basketball there's nothing like nostalgia and there's no one like Gary.

Monday, April 15, 2013


An Open Letter To Kobe Bryant.


Dear Kobe.

This is for you. Thank you. Now I would love to claim to be your biggest fan but then I would be discrediting the love you receive from all sorts of devoted fans all over the globe. I'm an NBA fan who bleeds purple and gold. One who often wonders which M.J. was the greatest of all time when it came to sports like those who swear by the king of pop (R.I.P.). Still, your closer than you think. The story of my love for this game and your game is a special one. Here it goes...

You grew up in Europe. You know how it is! I sit writing this in an internet cafe in my hometown in England, thinking of how you grew up in Italy dribbling with your hands while everyone else was doing it with their feet. I know you love soccer, but like your first love I love basketball and when it comes to sport I havent looked back since. While everyone else in my country was watching the Premier League my heavy, 2 in the morning eyelids where focussed on basketball and again you know how it is. Television coverage, before cable and League Passes (which not everyone including myself can afford) was seldom. Sure it was Michael Jordan who got me into basketball, him and his Chicago Bulls team, but I never really saw them play until I went to the video libary. He was a legend, you where the reality.

Standing their with that 'fro, that smile and those sunglasses, next to that big fella. Complete with a new stadium and uniform set that shined brighter than the Californian sun in Los Angeles, but not your chances. I saw purple and gold ticker tape fall as you leapt into Shaquille O'Neal's arms on my television set a million miles away. The kid from the small seaside town saw a team that ruled the Pacific do it again three times over before, he had to get a closer look. That's when I made the trip, halfway through my sebatcle year in Toronto, Canada (shout out to the T-Dot, 81 right?!) in 2006. I had a few weeks left before I returned home for Christmas, I was close, but not that close. Still, it didn't matter I made that flight to LAX. What I thought would be just in time to catch the Lakers/Clippers what we here call a derby at STAPLES...but then lost luggae happened and I missed THE game. Still, I got to meet former player Walt McCarty at the airport and strike up a conversation which six years later led to an interview. America and life is crazy.

Still, when I got my things back and went to the heart of the city, the first thing I did with the new day was visit downtown Los Angeles. There after an hour long coach ride I saw the STAPLES Centre for the first time in it's metal and glass flesh and it was like seeing one of America's greatest landmarks for me. In my mind the Hollywood sign couldnt compare. Nothing could. I made my way to the ticket booth and asked what games where playing this week (I already knew), the attendee told me about the 5 games over the week (I had planned it perfectly). He asked me which ones I wanted. I looked at all my saved up cash..."all of them"!

Then I got to see all the dunks, fade-away's, steals and smiles for real. I couldn't take my eyes off the court...and I'm a big Jack Nicholson fan. It was December. Remember you went down with an injury in the week. I thought 'what luck', but then against the odds you came back to beat the San Antonio Spurs, tongue out with the dunk. Just when I saved the best seats in the house for last. What a trip! What a week! You came back. The I did four years later (it felt like home)...and I know you will, 6 or 9 months later. Is this the end? Nah! I mean I know you, I've grown up with you. Father time never. Face time more like. Time to get those iPhone's and Instagram ready. I just feel sorry for the bear.

You see I had to put it all down in writing, like I've done time and time about you. Almost to the point where it's become a little strange (but hey, I'm a sportswriter). 'The Kobe Series' followed 'The Jordan Series' as I tried to hash-tag the range of articles I've wrote about you to spread the love, just like you joining Twitter. You can always 'Count On Kobe'. I can't thank you enough, writing about you on your birthday (the article 'Thirtysomething') got me my first gig with SLAM Magazine's online site. How can I thank you for that? Your passion, fuelled mine and turned it into work and success. Then came Dime Magazine's 'Laker Nation' blog and who knows what next. From speaking to the likes of Scoop Jackson (he has his own letter), James Worthy on Christmas, your boys Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Earl Clark, Kareem Rush, A.C. Green and even the likes of Spike Lee, Tyrese and Vin Diesel. This life is crazy, but it all started with you. The love of my life even see's it, and she prefers her sports with four wheels. It's all love.

"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity for me to rise," remember?! Don't hate this I'm not writing this article like this is it. This is no goodbye letter. Six to nine months is a long time and I may have wooried that you may never come back but I know the Kareem rocking chair has to wait. Besides you've just overtaken Wilt when no one thought you could. Who's next? Even the King LeBron knows the throne may be his, but it's not his league yet. You retire when you say you do. As those so called better players get wheelchaired off the court with lesser injurys (ouch!), you rip your achilles apart (it's amost a fitting injury for the player closest to 'God'), make two free-throws and walk off like you where just taking a Gatorade break. Maybe you are.

You've come back from things more flagrant. Won MVP's with a broken nose, become a phantom menace with the mask, showed ESPN this former number 8 is better than 7th place. There's still venom in this Mamba. The Vino is still getting better with age. You shouldn't worry...everyone else should. You're good, matter of fact you're great. That's what makes you legendary. I've got you like Dwight, Pau, Steve and Metta have. I'll see you again, maybe in L.A., and I'll write again and it won't be a history piece. It'll be a piece where you make history. 'The Kobe Series' will still play and you'll still come back with avengance. Besides it's just one more ring you want right? This is no book end. This is the start of the next chapter of your career. The story continues. Now how do you want to write it?

Yours Sincerely,

Tim David Harvey