Gary Payton earned his nickname, ‘The Glove’, when a cousin called him during the 1993 Western Conference finals and told him that he was covering Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson “like a baseball in a glove”.
Soon, that cousin might be calling Payton a Hall of Famer.
During a Friday event kicking off the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Houston, Payton headlined the list of finalists eligible for election into this year’s Hall of Fame class. Those actually voted in will be announced over Final Four weekend.
From Oakland, Payton played his college ball at Oregon State before being selected in the first round by the Seattle SuperSonics, where he spent his next 13 seasons. He finished his tenure as the franchise leader in points, assists and steals but he did not win an NBA Championship until finally breaking through as a role player with the Miami Heat in 2006. It was his 16th season in the league.
He is still the only point guard ever to be named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, when he received the honor in 1996. He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA first-teamer, and a nine-time All-NBA Defensive first-teamer.
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Joining him on the ballot is Bernard King, who played for six teams between 1977 and 1993. King was a four-time All-Star who scored 19,655 points in 874 games — an average of 22.5 per contest. He earned the league’s scoring title after the 1984-85 season, but missed the entire ’85-’86 season after tearing his ACL.
The rest of the guys are all deserving in their own right, according to CBS Sports.
Other notable players and figures to make the finalist list include Warriors and Heat star Tim Hardaway, Kings forward Mitch Richmond, five-time NBA-ABA all-star Spencer Haywood, 76ers championship forward Maurice “Mo” Cheeks, four-time UNLV Final Four coach Jerry Tarkanian, six-time Final Four coach Rick Pitino (not likely to have his time with the Celtics mentioned), two-time NBA championship Celtics coach Tommy Heinsohn and five-time Final Four coach Guy Lewis of the University of Houston.