David Hubert, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — Gary Payton II, the starting point guard at Salt Lake Community College, was once driven away from basketball by the comparisons with his famous father, the former NBA great.
"You're not as good as your dad," came the taunts from his peers. "You're never going to be that good."
The name didn't help — Gary Payton The Second. The name tied him immediately to the old man and relegated him second in line. It was all spelled out for him. So he tried other sports for a time before eventually embracing basketball because "it was what I loved and a game I understand and what I grew up with."
So here he is, a starting freshman guard at Salt Lake Community College, trying to find his way in the game, and more comparisons are inevitable, if unfair.
At 6-foot-3, he is an inch shorter than his father, but he does have the old man's hops. In a game earlier this season, a rebound was so long and high that nobody bothered to box out Payton. He one-stepped between two players, launching himself into the air, reached back behind his head with one long arm to snag the ball, and then dunked it with authority in one stunning move. Against North Idaho he stole the ball and took off from the baseline 10-12 feet from the basket and jammed it.
He also inherited his father's love of — and penchant for — defense. The old man is one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history. He was known as "The Glove" because of how closely he guarded opponents.
"Defense is in our blood," says Payton II, who likes to call himself "The Mitten." "I don't know why, but I love defense. I love stopping the other guy. I love it when the team needs a big stop."
"He's different than his dad, but there are similarities," says SLCC coach Todd Phillips. "He's a good defender. He can feel where the ball is, and he can guard the ball."
Despite being a perimeter player, Payton II is the team's best rebounder, averaging more than six per game, and he ranks second in steals (33) and third in assists (65). His outside shot is a work in progress, but he's a good slasher to the basket, like his dad. He averages a modest 8.5 points a game for 17-2 SLCC, which ranks 15th in the latest national JC rankings.
One more comparison: The kid has a long way to go if he wants to match the old man's mouth. The NBA superstar was famous for his trash talk, his temper and his outbursts, which is why he ranks third on the NBA's all-time list for technical fouls. So far, GPII has only two technicals this season and one was for hanging on the rim so he could secure a safe landing after a dunk.
"He's the king of trash talking," says Gary II of his father. "I do a little, but he takes it to another level."
Maybe it's a reflection of their upbringings. The kid grew up on Easy Street, the son of a multi-millionaire athlete. Gary Sr. grew up in the West Oakland projects, the son of a father whose nickname was "Mister Mean."
Gary II's other technical occurred last month during a game against Eastern Mississippi. He was engaging in some rather mild trash talk when the official hit him with the T. "You can't do that!" assistant coach Paul Marble said to the referee. "It's in his blood!"
But the truth is, it's not.
"He can talk a little bit," says Phillips. "We're aware of that. He's got those genes. But it's nothing more than any of our kids. He's a very upbeat, easygoing kid. His dad was known as a hard, nasty guy; Gary is not like that."
The first thing you expect when you meet the son of Gary Payton is a guy with a chip on his shoulder, especially when you learn that he has the flu and wasn't expecting a visit from a reporter. Instead, he is polite, humorous and smiling.
"I get that from my mom," he says. "Everyone calls us twins."
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