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If Gary Payton appears to be looking into space during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Sunday, it's for a reason.
Payton wasn't scared of Michael Jordan and earned a reputation during his NBA career as one of the toughest guards ever. The nine-time All-Defensive team selection from tough Oakland, Calif., was nicknamed "The Glove" and was a stellar trash-talker, too. With such a gritty reputation, there is no way the nine-time All-Star will tear up during his induction speech into his enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday, right?
"Everybody wants to know if I'm going to cry," Payton told Yahoo Sports. "You know what? I'm going to be real with you. I don't think I'm going to cry. But I got to stay away from watching my mom because if she starts tearing up … That's the hardest mama in the world to make cry. If she tears up and cries?
"I know Pops ain't gonna tear up. If he does it, it's just a bad thing. I'm just going to stay focused and look forward and try not to look anybody in their face."
Payton took time from his new job as a Fox Sports1 sports analyst to answer questions about his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Q: How is your induction speech coming along?
A: "I'm trying to put a little spin on everything. Everybody keeps asking me about this speech. I'm going to make it funny. I'm going to make it soft. I'm going to make it hard. I'm going to give much props to Oakland, Calif., and I'm going to go from there. I'm going to give it from my heart."
Q: Why did you pick Hall of Famers George Gervin and John Stockton as your presenters during the ceremony?
A: "George Gervin was my childhood idol since I was little. In Oakland I had all his posters on my wall. The Iceman poster where he was on ice blocks in that silver suit. He presented to all my other Hall of Fame stuff for retired jerseys at Oregon State and my high school. John Stockton is because I liked him when I was playing basketball. Everyone said he was dirty. He wasn't as athletic as us. But he was smarter than us. We knew what he was going to do. We knew he was going to set [tough] picks. We had all the videos on Utah. We were so dumb. We would get caught up with the picks and get mad at him. He would shoot eight times and make nine. Shoot eight free throws and make seven. He'd have 15 assists and four steals. A complete game. That's just the way he was and I idolized him. I just imitated him while going about my business, talking trash and getting it done. After the game you would look at my stats and it would be right there."
Q: Did John Stockton ever talk trash back to you?
A: "Never. That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He's the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he'd just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over. There was much respect to him doing that to me. It taught me a lot."
Q: Even so, you once said you were better than Stockton?
A: "I was. I really think I was better as an athlete and in everything all-around. But he was just a smarter basketball player than us. He just got it done. I do think I was a better basketball player. I can do more things skills-wise. He just showed he knew how to play the game and that was the biggest difference."
Q: You say Stockton was the hardest to guard, but what about guarding Michael Jordan?
A: "Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn't say nothing and you couldn't figure him out. He'd keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things."
Q: There are a lot of really good point guards in today's NBA. Who do you really like?
A: "I've always liked Deron Williams because has the same mentality as me. They don't play defense like we did. But [Williams] does do it on both ends of the floor and wants to. …I like him a lot. Another guy I like a lot and a lot of people think I dislike him is [Rajon] Rondo. He can't score like I did, but he does everything else like I did."
Q: As a former Seattle SuperSonics star but also a Northern California native, what were your thoughts when you learned the Sacramento Kings weren't moving to Seattle?
A: "When [Sacramento mayor and ex-NBA player] Kevin Johnson stepped up and did what he did as mayor, which our mayor [in Seattle] should have did in 2008 … I knew he would have a group coming and he kept telling the NBA to hold on, hold on. Once you match something, I don't think they will take your team away from you. If they come and say we're going to build a new arena and this and that and it's a realistic thing, the NBA will work with you. They did they were supposed to do. Another [city] shouldn't take a team away from their city and their fans. They know we are hurting in [Seattle].
"[The NBA] knew it wasn't a good situation and a good idea for them to take our [Sonics] away. But we didn't do what we were supposed to do. They made a better situation for the Sonics in Oklahoma where it sells out all the time and makes big revenue. But I still think [Seattle] could be like that. We just needed a different ownership. If Chris Hansen would have bought the team at that time we'd be right where we are."
Q: Is there anything the Oklahoma City Thunder can do to convince you to retire your jersey there?
A: "No. There is nothing they can do. I'm sorry. It's nothing against Oklahoma City. I never played in Oklahoma City. I would never disrespect the Seattle fans like that."
Q: Are you confident an NBA team will return to Seattle?
A: "I'm very confident. It wouldn't be a thing not to retire my jersey. But I know that's where it should be. It will be there sooner or later. It could be years. If I'm 70 and they get a team, hey, so be it. It will be great just as long as it will go up in Seattle."
Q: As a former Los Angeles Laker, what do you think about the situation with Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers?
[Related: Gary Payton is a Hall of Famer]
A: "It's a player doing what he wants to do. The Lakers knew what they were getting into when they got him. They gambled and lost the game. Kobe Bryant, to me, is still the best basketball player in my mind. He played with me and he was in my era. I still love him to death. He's a little brother to me. They're going to struggle for a little while, and Kobe is on his way out. He has two more years to his contract and they will probably sign him back another two years and try to rebuild. They're going to struggle. It's going to be a hard time to the Lakers fan, but they will come back. It's going to be a transition that they will get through."
Q: You did win a NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006. But what bothers you more, losing the NBA Finals in 2004 to the Detroit Pistons with the Lakers or 1996 with the Sonics against Jordan's Chicago Bulls?
A: "The Bulls. We didn't go in there serious thinking we could win the series. We were just happy we were there. We should have went out and tried to go at them. We were thinking about a team that made history at 72-10. But we had to understand that we won 66 games, too. We won a lot games, too, and wasn't that far behind them. We beat them one time in the regular season. We should have went in there thinking we could beat them. By the time we figured it out we were equal to that team, it was too late. We were down 3-0 and then in Chicago down 3-2. It was a hard time to come up. People didn't know I was hurt and I didn't want people to know. I should have started off [guarding] Michael from Game 1. We don't know what would have happened. But we didn't. That's just the way it happened. They won the championship. They deserved it. But it was a disappointment to me because we didn't go in there thinking we can beat team."