The now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics team of the 1990s featured a dynamic point guard out of Oregon State University named Gary Payton. "The Glove" played his first 13 seasons with the Sonics, ending, during the only losing season while he was featured on the roster, mid-way through the 2002/03 season.
During that final half-year in Seattle, Payton was traded to the Bucks at the February deadline and went on to play for four more teams in the NBA before retiring in 2007 after capturing a championship with the Heat the year before.
Tonight Payton will be officially inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA as part of the class of 2013. Payton sat down with the Sporting News' Sean Deveney to talk about the end of his tenure in Seattle and the conclusion of pro basketball in the state of Washington, at least until the NBA decides to return to a city itching for a professional basketball team.
On being inducted as a SuperSonic:
"This will smooth a little bit off of it," Payton revealed. "A lot of Seattle fans traveled up here, I am seeing a lot of stuff on Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff. It has really helped me. And then people had the galls to ask me what I am going to in as. I said, 'Really? You got the galls to ask me that?' Like I would go in as a Laker? How many All-Stars did I make as a Laker? You see me, 13 years, playing for them Seattle SuperSonics. You didn't see nothing else, you just seen that Sonic on my jersey. So it is really gratifying for Seattle. I can't disrespect that."
On the beginning of the end in Seattle when Barry Ackerley sold the team in 2001:
"When the Ackerleys sold the team, it went from being a family team to being a business then. The people who took over the team ran their team like a business, like how they made their money. And you can't do that. The Ackerleys ran the team like a family. When we had problems, they would call us in and talk to us. They would call us in and ask us, 'What's the problem?' Not try to trade you, not act like, 'No, you don't need a new contract.' They would work it out. They would call you and say let's work it out this summer, come to my home in the summer, we will go on a trip together, let's work things out."
On the ownership reign of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who bought the team from Ackerley and eventually sold the team to the man who moved them to Oklahoma City:
"[Schultz] did a lot of moves that wasn't the best moves," said Payton. "He made a lot of silly moves and those silly moves, first, was getting rid of me. I wasn't asking for a lot. I didn't never ask for a contract, I played all my contracts out. I was in the last year of the deal. All I asked was, are we going to get an extension? He made it seem like, 'I don't care about you no more, you're nothing.' That's what happened. He seen that wasn't the right way. Then the team and the whole franchise went downhill from there."
On the end of his time in Seattle:
"It was time to go. I didn't want to be working for this guy. He knew it and I knew it. He made the move and he had the consequences. But, the consequences came and he messed that franchise up."