Gary Payton’s Fear: Not Having His Jersey Retired In Seattle

payton_jerseyIt’s hard not to mention the Seattle Supersonics and not think of Gary Payton.

Whether he was talking trash our scowling at opponents on his way to earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 1996, or throwing half court lob dunks  to Shawn Kemp on the break, there’s no doubt “The Glove” and his No. 20 Sonics jersey would one day hang from the rafters in Key  Arena.

That was long before the franchise uprooted and relocated to Oklahoma City in February 2008.

Today, Payton is on the campaign trail and mission to bring the NBA back to Seattle. Yet the former all-star point guard who called Seattle home  for 12 1/2 seasons also fears he’ll never see his NBA jersey retired and honored if it doesn’t come from a franchise back in Seattle.

 “A lot of people want to see my jersey retired up there in those rafters which if it (an NBA franchise in Seattle) never comes back, I don’t  think my jersey will ever get retired then,” said Payton.

 “That’s just the way it goes. I hope it comes back and I think the Seattle fans deserve a basketball team.”

Payton made the comments before watching his alma mater Oregon State Beavers beat USC on Saturday, 78-59 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Oregon. While Payton described (in the last minute of this video clip) his involvement and efforts in helping the NBA return to Seattle as “going good”, he was quick to remind everyone that a formal process on partnership plan with the NBA can’t really begin until September.

“We keep talking about it, but we can’t do anything until September. That’s when the contract is over. A lot of people say, ‘Let’s do this, or let’s do that,’ but we can’t do anything.”

Realistically, an NBA future in Seattle is contingent on a new arena that reportedly could be achieved through the support of Chicago businessman Donald Levin, and a possible strong NHL connection. Last June plans for a multi-use facility in Bellevue, Washington surfaced when word spread Levin — who owns the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League — was exploring plans at constructing a private arena in the area. As discussed here at Crossover Chronicles recently, the NHL is looking to find a buyer for the Phoenix Coyotes and there is a group from Seattle hoping to bring a professional hockey franchise to Seattle. Would an NBA franchise soon follow?

But it all comes back to the arena — and surely some deep pockets too.

“First of all we need we need to get a stadium in Seattle. We are working on that now. We need to get a lot of people on-board and I want to be involved with that,” added Payton, who retired from the NBA in 2007 after winning a title with the Miami Heat in 2006.

“A lot of people want me to be into management, which possibly will happen if it goes down, but we just want to get back to the NBA to start thinking about Seattle.

“Seattle is a great town. They deserve it. “

Selected out of Oregon State second overall by the Sonics in the 1990 NBA Draft, Payton holds the franchise records in points, assists and steals for Seattle and along with numerous NBA accomplishments represented Seattle and his country by winning gold medals in 1996 and 2000 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Teams, along with pushing the Sonics to a franchise record best 64 wins and the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls in 1996.

Payton is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year and has already said if or when he ever receives that distinct honor, he will enter as a member of the Sonics. 

“I didn’t play in Oklahoma City,” he said last year.

“That would be disrespect to Seattle fans. We never played there. Why would we go to Oklahoma City and give the fans that opportunity or privilege?”

Like the opportunity of the NBA returning to Seattle, Payton’s jersey retirement ceremony will have to wait.