No matter which team you root for, it’s hard not to respect Gary Payton II’s journey throughout the NBA system.
The son of nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton Sr., Young Glove’s path has been much different than his father’s.
But even though Payton II hasn’t been able to find the same success in the league as his dad, that hasn’t stopped him from trying.
After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, Payton II joined the Houston Rockets for summer league before being waived the following month.
For the next five years, he bounced around from team to team in both the G League and the NBA.
His most recent landing spot has been in Golden State, which initially started as a 10-day contract with the Warriors in April 2021 followed by another 10-day contract.
In May 2021, he was signed for the rest of the season and the 2021-22 season. At last, his time had come and he was finally given the opportunity he had so desperately longed for his whole life.
Until the plug was pulled.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers had to break the news to Payton II that they were waiving him just before the start of the 2021-22 season.
“At that point, I was already numb to getting that type of news,” Payton wrote in an article published by The Players Tribune on Friday. “I was always assuming the worst. It was like a protective shell I created for myself, I think, so that I didn’t get my hopes up too high about this NBA thing. But still… something about this time felt different.”
Sure, Payton II was cut, but that didn’t stop him from recognizing the position he was in and doing what he could to capitalize on it.
After Myers broke the news of Payton II, his immediate response to the general manager turned out to be a direct reflection of his character both on and off the court.
“This was The Bay, you know what I’m saying? And I didn’t want to just turn the page,” Payton II wrote. “So I was like, F–k it. Yeah, I’m cut, but I’m gonna stay here and work out with the team, regardless.
“Ha! I didn’t even know if that was something that was allowed. But I wanted to stay on the team’s radar, to let them know this is where I wanted to be. So after Bob broke the news to me, I was like, “Umm, well, you know what though … can I still come in tomorrow? And work out with the team and just like … be around?”
Myers choosing to agree was game-changing for Payton II.
And even though he wasn’t a part of the Warriors organization, his loyalty still lied with Golden State.
“Bob said I could hang around, so that’s what I did,” Payton II wrote. “And I remember telling my agent at the time, “Hey, if I clear waivers and anyone calls about me, tell them I’m really just interested in getting back on the Warriors first and foremost’ That was my whole vibe at the time .Somehow, I’m getting back on this team.”
A few days later, Payton II found himself in a room for a meeting he’ll probably never forget.
“They call me into a meeting room and it’s like, ‘GP — we see you, man. You made the team. You’ve got a spot on the roster.’ I’ll never forget that moment,” he said. “It felt so good.”
Fast-forward a few months later, Payton II became a crucial part of the Warriors’ lineup in their current postseason run.
Payton II’s hard work and dedication earned himself a spot in the Warriors’ starting lineup for Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, until a fracture to his left elbow put a heartbreaking jab to his playoff hero aspirations.
After all the adversity, Payton II was finally where he felt he belonged — on the biggest stage in the NBA — and it was taken away in seconds.
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Still, he refuses to put his head down and will continue to do what he’s had to do his entire career: don’t give up.
“I don’t have time to waste thinking about something bad that happened, or feeling sorry for myself,” Payton II wrote. “I have too much to feel positive about for all that. Honestly, even me just being on the Warriors, and being a part of this whole thing… I don’t take any of that for granted. I cherish every minute of it. I know how fortunate I am.”
Payton II is making good progress in his recovery process and will be re-evaluated on May 27, which would be after a potential Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
It’s unclear if we’ll get to see Payton II on the court again this postseason, but the Warriors can certainly play through his motto after they have faced plenty of ups and downs this season yet haven’t given up and in return are two wins away from their sixth NBA Finals in eight years.
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