Gary Payton II's journey from 'sorry-ass' basketball player to NBA champion

·3 min read

Being called 'sorry-ass' player by dad fueled GP2's NBA journey originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Gary Payton II’s basketball journey is one of the most respectable stories in the NBA.

While many are familiar with his inspirational path to becoming an NBA champion, Payton recently dug deeper into his rocky road of overcoming adversity.

But the concern and doubt around Payton’s ability to play professional basketball didn’t begin when he went undrafted in 2016, or when he bounced from team to team throughout the G League and the NBA.

It began at home, with his father, nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton Sr., telling him he wasn’t a good basketball player.

In high school, Payton says he didn’t really take basketball too seriously. He was busy jumping around to different sports each season and focused on his academics to make sure he was eligible to play.

“And then one summer, my dad told me I wasn’t a good basketball player,” Payton said on a recent episode of the “Truth and Basketball” podcast. “Ha, he told me I was a sorry-ass basketball player … And he told me to get a job or get a scholarship because he wasn’t going to pay for me to get to school.”

Ever since that moment, Payton never stopped grinding.

He worked on his game with a trainer for years all the way up to his two seasons at Salt Lake Community College in Utah. He then went on to play two seasons at Oregon State before going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Eventually, he landed a deal with the Houston Rockets. From there, it’s been an up-and-down road with six NBA teams and five G League teams.

One of those teams, of course, was the Warriors. After signing back-to-back 10-day contracts with Golden State in 2021, the Warriors signed Payton for the rest of the 2020-21 season and the 2021-22 season.

Payton was cut shortly before the start of the 2021-22 season but asked Warriors general manager Bob Myers if he could still stick around and work out with the team.

After agreeing, Myers and the Warriors took notice of Payton’s dedication and decided to give him a roster spot.

A few months later, Payton became a huge part of the Warriors’ end-of-the-season run to the playoffs and eventually the NBA Finals, where he won a championship for the first time.

“After that buzzer went off, I just sat on the bench, and I literally just sat there like a whole relief, a whole bunch of weight off my shoulders,” Payton said. “From being cut, from my dad telling me I'm a sorry-ass basketball player, coaches everywhere I went saying I wouldn’t be a fit just because I couldn’t shoot and wouldn’t be able to fit in this league.

“I just sat there. I waited for my family to find me. I can’t even put it into words. But then my dad came over, he was hyped, and I told him that he wasn’t the only one with a ring now. So you know, I had to give him a little s*** talk 'cause I knew I had to ‘cause I could at the time.”

Payton's success in the NBA proved a lot of people wrong, including his own father.

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"The weirdest thing about him is we used to beef growing up about basketball because he always wanted me to do things the way he did it, and the way he grew up," Payton said. "I used to try to tell him ‘Your road and my road are completely different.’ He doesn’t understand my road, and I don’t understand his road because he went No. 2, I went undrafted. I had to go through G League, get cut multiple times. They gave him the time and the patience to be him. And there’s some things he didn’t understand going through my journey.

Now he understands. I did it my way, and my way worked. Now he’s just proud of me."

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