Sonicsgate just won a Webby! The how-Seattle-got-screwed-out-of-an-NBA-team documentary from former SW contributor Jason Reid picked up its internet Oscar last night with none other than The Glove himself giving the five-word acceptance speech. Which is a perfect segue to our favorite Gary Payton story ever.
The Payton story is brought to you by former Seattle Times Sonics' beat writer Glenn Nelson (via the total recall of Mike Seely, whom Nelly told the story to initially when they both worked for rivals.com), which he only shared after the team left town.
It's the '97 playoffs, and the Sonics are on the road facing Phoenix in a best-of-five first round series. Payton and Nelson head out the night before the game. Their (platonic?) dates for the evening: Salt-N-Pepa. For Glenn, the evening's an absolute Technicolor blur. In da clubs, cavalcade of booze, Cristal poppin' in the stretch Navigator, after the party there's the hotel lobby, etc. Their limo allegedly drops Payton off at the hotel in time to catch the team bus to the arena for pregame warmups, so the Glove's working on no sleep. Nelson makes the mistake of trying to catch a little shuteye, oversleeps, barely makes it on time for tipoff, and subsequently has trouble spelling the word "the," so brain dead is he from a screaming hangover.
Payton? He drops like 43 on the Suns (I'm not sure who won, but still, impressive). And this was the rule, not the exception. Shawn Kemp thrived in Seattle because he could keep up with Payton on AND off the court. Vin Baker's career ended up in alcohol rehab because he couldn't.
A quick look on Basketball Reference shows that Payton didn't score more than 34 in any game that series. So maybe that tall tale, like all others, has grown a couple inches since its first retelling.
But the point is, Payton had energy for days. And still does. After the Webbys, the Sonicsgate boys apparently partied in NYC until the early morning hours. And when everyone was begging off for their hotel beds, Payton was still rarin' to go.