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BY KEEGAN HALL
When it comes to sports, basketball has always been my first love. I was captain of my high school team and still play today. After graduating from UW, I landed my dream job with the Seattle Sonics. A basketball nut who gets paid to talk about his favorite team all day… yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that! I stayed with the team for five years until they relocated to OKC (a terribly sad day in Seattle sports history).
Much of my excited towards the basketball stems from my childhood. Growing up, I watched all the Sonics games on TV. We didn’t have a lot of money so I was only able to attend two Sonics games – both against the lowly Dallas Mavericks (back then the Mavs were terrible and no one wanted to see them so we got free tickets from my dad’s boss… Although I have a special place in my heart for the Mavs since they were the only other team I got to watch in person… looking forward to Cuban inviting me to a game soon… hint, hint… haha). Needless to say, I was more than happy to attend the Sonics vs. Mavs game. In fact, it’s one of my favorite childhood memories.
The 90’s was truly magical time to be a basketball fan in Seattle. The Sonics were an absolute powerhouse in the Western Conference where they consistently won 55+ games every year (including a franchise best 64-18 in 95-96). The Key was packed EVERY night to watch one of the best, most exciting teams in the league.
And the centerpiece of that team? Without question, Gary Payton. Hands down the best player to ever wear a Sonics uniform. If you’ve seen him play, you know why.
He played with an intensity that few competitors could handle. He’d talk trash, and then back it up. He could truly do it all: hits 3s in your face, drop dimes in the paint and, of course, no one played better D than Gary. NO ONE. In fact, he’s the only point guard in NBA history to win Defensive Player of the Year.
But that’s just one of his accolades. His careers stats are absolutely bananas, and it was no surprise that he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Oh, about those stats, check these out:
NBA Champion: 2006
NBA Defensive Player of The Year: 1996 (only point guard ever to win the award, and only guard to win the award in the 1990s)
9-time NBA All-Star: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
9-time All-Defensive First Team member: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999*, 2000*, 2001, 2002 (shares record for selections with Michael Jordan)
NBA All-Rookie Second Team: 1991
When he retired after the 2007 season, he was ranked among the top players in NBA history in many categories:
30th in points (21,813)
8th in assists (8,966)
4th in steals (2,445)
9th in minutes played (47,117)
10th in games played (1,335)
15th in overall win shares (417)
Those. Stats. Are. Crazy!