Why Payton is called 'The Glove'

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -

Of the NBA legends playing in the “Power of Two” NBA Asia Challenge at the Araneta Coliseum this Friday, the star with the latest championship ring is Gary Payton who was on the Miami Heat team that beat Dallas in the 2006 finals.

Payton, 42, will suit up for the Reds with Glen Rice, Darnell Lazare, Chris McCray, Atoy Co, Vergel Meneses, Allan Caidic, Asi Taulava, L. A. Tenorio and Arwind Santos. For sure, Tenorio will stick close to Payton as he tries to learn from one of the game’s craftiest point guards ever.

Payton was the second overall pick, behind Derrick Coleman, in the 1990 NBA draft and played for Seattle, Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and Miami in a celebrated 17-year pro career. He played on the US team that won the gold medal at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

A durable warrior, Payton missed only 59 of 1,394 regular season games during his NBA journey and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 when he was No. 1 in steals with 2.85 a game. Payton averaged at least 20 points in seven seasons, saw action in nine All-Star Games and was voted to the NBA’s mythical first team twice.

The 6-4, 180-pound native of Oakland, California, played in two finals – for Seattle against Chicago in 1995-96 and the Lakers against Detroit in 2003-04 – before finally hitting paydirt with Miami in 2005-06. Among his Heat teammates were Shaquille O’Neal, Dwayne Wade, Udonis Haslem, James Posey and Alonzo Mourning. The Heat coach was Pat Riley and Fil-Am Erik Spoelstra, his assistant.

Payton is called “The Glove” as a tribute to his defensive prowess. It was during the 1993 Western Conference finals between Seattle and Phoenix when word got around that Payton’s cousin said, “you’re holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove” referring to the Sonic guard’s in-your-face defense.

Although Payton grew up idolizing George Gervin and singled out John Stockton as his toughest opponent, he once said he would pay to be taught Tim Hardaway’s crossover.

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In 1999, Payton wrote a 40-page children’s book with Greg Brown entitled “Confidence Counts.” He encouraged kids to gain the confidence they need to take their best shot at life, recalling his own ups and downs in becoming a hardcourt hero. Payton didn’t sugar-coat his life as a boy who disliked going to school and was once yanked out of the classroom by his father. He told it like it was, hoping the lessons he learned the hard way would inspire others to walk the straight path.

What kept Payton on track was the support of a loving family. The youngest of five children, he was raised in the tough West Oakland projects where poverty, streetfights and gunshots were a common thread. His father Al worked as a cook and mother Annie put in hours on two to three jobs a day.

Payton’s oldest brother Greg introduced him to basketball. As a boy, he shot hoops using a coat hanger for a rim nailed to a tree on the sidewalk and threw tennis balls into the opening of a rubber shoe against a wall at home. Sports was a consuming passion for Payton at an early age – he did basketball, kickball and baseball.

Payton learned the tricks of the trade in street-ball games where trash-talking came with the territory. When he reached Grade 7, Payton stood only 5-2. In Grade 9, he was 5-4. “Being so short wasn’t a worry for me,” he said. “I used my quickness to get to the basket. I figured if I stayed small, I would find a way to be great.”

At Skyline High School, Payton decided to take his basketball and studies seriously. Coach Fred Noel said, “Before you can bounce a ball, you’ll have to prove to me you’re capable of good grades.” For six months, Payton went to school at 5 a.m. and hit the study table with a tutor, going through homework and lessons three hours before the start of class. Eventually, Payton got the hang of it, found out he enjoyed math and became a good student. On the court, he was outstanding, averaging 18.3 points as a junior and 20.6 as a senior. Skyline posted a combined record of 39-12 in those two years.

“I thrive on competition,” he said. “Color doesn’t matter, family status doesn’t matter, money doesn’t matter. What matters is performance. If the game’s on the line, put the ball in my hands. I’m not afraid to lose. Losers are afraid to win. To me, you show your courage by trying.”

*  *  *  *

At Oregon State, Payton began to grow physically but his maturity level lagged behind. As a sophomore, he threw a wad of bubble gum at a male cheerleader who got it between the eyes and kicked the ball across the floor in disgust over a call. “I’m not proud of those outbursts,” he said. “Sports has a way of testing your character. Slowly, I matured, thanks to the guidance of those around me. You need a team around you and their support when you mess up.”

As he polished his skills at Oregon State, Payton realized that scoring wasn’t the ultimate high. “A great assist or steal is more satisfying than scoring to me,” he said. “Assists make people around you play better. Confident people aren’t threatened by the talents of others or the credit they receive.”

In the NBA, Payton built up his confidence by practicing religiously. “Being good at anything takes effort,” he said. “Confidence, like a building, is created one brick of success at a time. What gives me the most pride is playing great defense. Shooting the basketball can be hot or cold but you can always play tough defense. Playing defense is all about heart and having the will to move your feet.”

An intense player whose trademark scowl is as intimidating as it is a sign of determination, Payton is in the NBA record books with the third most technical fouls behind Jerry Sloan and Rasheed Wallace.

“On the court, I do have a scowl but I bust a smile sometimes,” he said. “I want to show opponents and teammates that I’m serious about winning. I always wear my game face when I play. My motivation does not come from hate or revenge. It comes from my love of the game and my love of competition. I’ve found that negative motivation might work for a while but being motivated by love makes you work harder and longer. Find out what you really love to do and work hard at it. That’s a formula for success.”

Payton’s quotes in this column were taken from his book “Confidence.”

Wearing the country's colors are lightflyweight Alice Kate Aparri of Baguio City, flyweight Annie Albania of Banga, South Cotabato and bantamweight Nesthy Petecio of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. They will be accompanied by ABAP head coach Pat Gaspi, elite coach Roel Velasco and team manager Karina Picson.

The three contenders are now training at the Koret Health and Recreation Center in San Francisco with eight others, including seven males, from the national pool. They are scheduled to spar with WBO women's superbantamweight champion Ana (Hurricane) Julaton at the Koret facility or the San Leandro Gym tomorrow afternoon (US time).

ABAP executive director Ed Picson said the three Barbados-bound fighters will skip the Blue and Gold tournament set up by 2004 US Olympic boxing team assistant coach Joe Zanders in Maywood City near Los Angeles on Sept. 2-5 to avoid possible injuries that could jeopardize their campaign in the AIBA event. They will fly directly to Bridgetown from Los Angeles while the rest of the delegation will return to Manila.

The Barbados competition will test the Filipinas' ability to compete in the three weight categories in the Asian Games this November and the London Olympics. Women's boxing will make its debut in the Guangzhou Asiad and the 2012 Olympics with only three classes – 48-51 kilograms or flyweight, 56-60 or lightweight and 69-75 or middleweight.

In Barbados, fighters will battle in 10 classes – 45-48 or lightflyweight, 51 or flyweight, 54 or bantamweight, 57 or featherweight, 60 or lightweight, 64 or lightwelterweight, 69 or welterweight, 75 or middleweight, 81 or lightheavyweight and +81 or heavyweight.

At the moment, only Albania qualifies as a candidate for the Asian Games because of her weight class. It may be too drastic a jump for Petecio to move up to lightweight but Picson said the coaching staff is studying the possibility seriously. An evaluation of the competition in Barbados will assist the staff in deciding on the women team's composition for Guangzhou.

AIBA official and 2009 Southeast Asian Games boxing technical delegate Herbert Embuldeniya of Sri Lanka said recently he expects a record number of participants in Barbados. AIBA is footing the travel bill of 80 fighters, two each from 40 countries slowly developing a women's boxing program like Jordan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Marquee names tipped to be in hot contention for honors include four-time 46 kilogram world champion "Magnificent" Mary Kom of India, two-time lightweight world champion Katie Taylor of Ireland, two-time world welterweight champion Mary Spencer of Canada, two-time world lightmiddleweight champion Arianne Fortin of Canada and two-time world middleweight champion Anne Laurell of Sweden.

It's not certain in what weight class Kom, 27 and a mother of two, will fight in Barbados but she may enter the flyweight division with Albania to size up her chances in the Olympics.

"Mary is a very clever fighter like Annie and if they face off either in Barbados or in London, it will be a thrilling match," said Embuldeniya. "What's crucial in amateur boxing is locating the spot in the ring where the five judges can easily see your punches landing. If you push your opponent into a corner and connect, the chances are not all the judges will get a good view of the action. It takes at least three of the five judges to push the buttons in a console box within seconds of each other for a fighter to score a point."

Albania, 28, is a three-time SEA Games gold medalist and claimed the silver in the last World Championships in Ningbo City, China, where there were 13 weight classes of competition.

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