If you are a Sonic fan (and, no, I’m not sure what that means anymore, either), you’re undoubtedly aware that Gary Payton has been nominated for – and will almost undoubtedly win election to - the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Loyal readers might recall a couple of articles we ran that attempted to decide whether specific players (Spencer Haywood and Jack Sikma) were logical candidates for the Hall. The articles were based on Bill James’ Keltner List (Basketball-Reference should also get credit for this idea; they’ve done it with dozens if not hundreds of players).
The whole endeavor left me a little cold, if only because the Basketball Hall of Fame is not like the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s a bizarre, illogical stew of mismatched ingredients; a few potatoes here, a couple shrimp there, and, hey, let’s throw some brussel sprouts in because, why, well not?
Put it another way: The Baseball HOF makes (some) sense, and a coherent line of questioning can lead you to an answer to the ultimate question: Is Player X a Hall of Famer? The Basketball HOF, though, is a mess, and needs a completely different line of questioning.
But enough of my rambling. On to the questions!
Is Gary Payton a Hall of Famer?
Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball? No, although he was probably considered the second- or third-best player in the league in the mid-90s and there is no shame in being second to the best player in history.
Was he the best player on his team? Absolutely, for many years.
Did he play for the Celtics? Yes, Payton played briefly … um, what does this have to do with anything?
Did he win a Championship with the Celtics? No, and I’m not sure why this matters, can we get back to the …
Did he play for the Knicks? Did he win a championship with the Knicks? No, he never played for the Knicks.
Did he ever win a Cup? Perhaps a Spangler Cup? Or a Macedonian Elite League Cup? What? He played in the NBA Finals three times and won it once. Is that what you mean?
Is he Brazilian? Did he ever score 40 points in a meaningless exhibition game while taking more than 30 shots? No, and this whole process is really starting to bug me.
Did he dominate at the collegiate level in a small sample size and then fail to replicate that success at the professional level in a larger sample size, but we really liked rooting for him in college, and geez, wasn’t it great when the Big East really mattered? Yeah, that’s a no. He was really good at Oregon State, though.
Did he play for perhaps Fort Wayne or Tri-Cities? Are you kidding with this?
Are you sure he didn’t play with the Knicks? I think I’ve had enough.
Hey, remember when we tried to nominate Yao Ming less than a year after he retired and even he thought it was a dumb idea? Wasn’t that kind of silly? Yeah, I guess that’s one way of describing it. Wait, what does this have to do with Gary Payton?
Was he a skinflint owner whose only real contribution to the game was selling his team to somebody else 30 years later and making a huge profit? Not really, no.
Did he play for Seattle or Portland? Yes! Yes, he did. Finally, a positive sign for us! Does this help …
Actually, we’re not really interested in Seattle and Portland, unless they played in the 70s, and even then, not so much. Seriously, go screw yourself.