Like father, (kind of) like son


CORVALLIS, Ore. — Arms folded and legs crossed, Gary Payton sits stoically in his courtside seat watching his former Oregon State team slog through a miserable first half.

The Hall of Fame point guard sees it all, but he’s focused on a particular player — the one with “Payton II” on the back of his jersey.

It’s all a little surreal — Payton watching his son, Gary Payton II, play his game, at his school, on the same court where a giant replica of his No.

20 jersey hangs in the rafters at venerable Gill Coliseum.

But none of that matters now.

On this cold winter night, Oregon State is getting drilled by UC Santa Barbara in the first half and Payton is squirming in his seat as he strokes his salt-and-pepper goatee. He leans forward in his chair and shares a few choice words with the referees.

Of course, right? Payton accumulated the third-most technical fouls in NBA history during his 17-year pro career. He’s never been shy about griping to officials.

Then he yells at Payton II, who pretends not to listen.

Message received. In the second half, the Beavers ran away with a 76-64 victory, and Payton II finished with another virtuoso performance: 14 points, nine rebounds, five steals and two assists.

“He’s telling me what I can do better,” Payton II said later. “I may not respond to him, but he knows I hear him.”

As a proud papa, Payton is pleased. As a basketball broadcast analyst, well, not so much.

Susan C. Ragan | USA TODAY Sports Images
Gary Payton II averages 12.3 points with a 51.9 FG%.

“He has to work on his jump shot a little bit more,” Payton said when asked about his son. “His post game can be a little bit better. … But the one major thing that I don’t like about him — and think it’s going to be something he has to improve to impress some of these NBA scouts that are coming around now — is he has to play with high energy throughout the game.

“That’s what I was on him tonight about. And you see when he’s active and engaged, good things happen.”

Payton is arguably the most famous athlete Oregon State has ever produced. He draws a crowd whenever he attends games, and all the attention makes him a little uneasy.

He doesn’t want the spotlight on him. Not now. He’s 46 and eight years into retirement from a remarkable NBA career. This is Gary Payton II’s time now.

Yet Payton II understood what he was getting into when he decided to play at Oregon State.

He knew there were going to be comparisons to his famous father and unrealistic expectations. He knew there would be fans who wished he played like his dad and critics who bemoaned his shortcomings.

And he still chose Oregon State.

“I wanted to get the program back to where it was when my father was here,” Payton II said. “It was just something so down the line it would be something that we would have and talk about and something special we have between father and son.

“He used to tell me how it was when he was here.”

It has been 25 years since Payton led the Beavers to their last NCAA men’s basketball tournament. He starred four years from 1987 to 1990, leading OSU to three NCAA appearances on his way to becoming the school’s career leader in points (2,172), assists (938) and steals (321).

And yet, in some ways Payton’s son is a better fit in Corvallis, Oregon, a small agricultural community that has embraced new coach Wayne Tinkle and a team filled with workmanlike-players who arrived with low expectations.

No one symbolizes the Beavers better than Payton II. He’s no-nonsense and no-frills on the court. And unlike his fast-talking father, he hardly lets out a peep on the floor.

“That’s his mother in him,” the elder Payton said, laughing.

Payton is Oakland cocky and has always been a chatterbox. They used to call him “The Glove” and the “Mouth that Roared.” He snarled when he played. And he laughed a lot, too.

Payton II is none of that. He’s an inch shorter and five pounds lighter than his dad. Still, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard is more athletic than his father was.

“I can rebound, steal, play defense, get assists and facilitate,” Payton II said. “He was more of a scorer and he really locked down one-on-one on defense. He really didn’t play over the rim, and that’s what I like to do.”

For Payton II, who wears No. 1 on his jersey, building his own reputation has been tantamount.

He grew up in Las Vegas and admits that his last name has helped and hindered him. He grew up around basketball, but didn’t take the sport seriously until his junior year at Spring Valley High School.

Academic issues delayed his Division I dreams. After a year at Phoenix’s Westwind Prep, he played at Salt Lake Community College, where he helped the Bruins to a 29-5 record and the national JC playoffs. Payton averaged 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists while earning second-team Division I All-America honors.

Last year, he chose Oregon State over Saint Mary’s. He got the blessing of his father and a warning: “Be your own man.”

Gary Payton 11/26/88 Portland W, 106-59 20-10-14
Gary Payton II 12/15/14 Grambling St. W, 71-43 10-12-10
Payton and Payton II are the only players in Oregon State history with a triple-double, both with points, rebounds and assists.

Midway through the regular season, Payton II and Oregon State have been two of the biggest surprises in the Pac-12. He leads the conference with 2.9 steals per game. He’s tops among OSU players with 8.2 rebounds and he averages 12.3 points while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, 34 percent on three-pointers and 71.4 on free throws.

“Defensively, he’s our spark,” Tinkle said. “Offensively, he can make some plays either by setting up his teammates or by finding a way to score himself and getting to the glass. He kind of does a little bit of everything for us, and the other guys feed off his energy.”

Payton II garnered national attention in December when he collected 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 71-43 win against Grambling State. The triple-double was Oregon State’s first since Payton (20 points, 14 assists and 10 boards) did it 26 years before against Portland.

“I wish I could have been there for that one,” said Payton, who works in Los Angeles for FOX Sports 1. “It’s great to have your son and you do something that’s never been done in the history of the NCAA.”

Payton was on hand Sunday when Oregon State upset then-No. 7 Arizona 58-56 at Gill Coliseum. He watched his son contribute 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals before he was swallowed by Beaver fans storming the court after the win.

Payton returns to Seattle on Thursday and will reconnect with former Sonics teammate Shawn Kemp.

They’ll spend the night watching their sons play against each other — Shawn Kemp Jr. for Washington and Gary Payton II for Oregon State — as the Huskies (11-4, 0-3 Pac-12) host the Beavers (11-4, 2-1) at Alaska Airlines Arena.

“That’s just crazy,” Payton II said. “We’re all grown now and in the Pac-12 and playing each other. It’s something to look forward to and something we’ll never forget.”

Another basketball game is over, and the Paytons leave Gill Coliseum and walk into the winter night. As they leave, Payton II turns to his famous father and asks for something every college kid needs — money.

This article was written by Percy Allen from Seattle Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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