Gary Payton always felt at home on the basketball court, but since his playing days wrapped up, the Hall of Fame guard has found another, more meaningful, purpose.
The nine trips to the All-Star game were great, as were the nine nods to the All-NBA Team. You better believe that the 2005-06 NBA Championship ring Payton won with the Miami Heat is pretty meaningful too, but all those accolades pale in comparison to how the Hall of Famer spends much of his time now, mentoring and talking with young athletes starting their journeys in their respective leagues.
So for that reason, and the fact that "The Glove" grew up in Oakland, Payton spent some time recently talking with the Raiders 2018 rookie class.
"I get a joy out of it, because the simple fact is that a lot of these kids, they get a lot of the talk that they're this, that, and that – they're great. They're this guy, and that guy, so when I come in and talk to them, I tell them the real," Payton explained. "It's going to take more than that…. I want them to understand that it takes hard work to get where you're at."
During his hour-long talk with the rookies, Payton did a bit of everything; he told old stories of his battles with Michael Jordan, he chronicled the struggles he faced early in his career, and offered advice on a range of topics both on and off the court.
But, regardless of the topic, Payton time and time again circled back to one word; work, and how at the end of the day, for any athlete to find success whether it's on the basketball court, the football field, or somewhere in between, they have to fully dedicate themselves to their craft.
During the course of his nearly two-decade career in the NBA, Payton was regarded as one of the best trash talkers in the game, but as he showed over and over, "G.P." had the ability to back it up.
However, one of the roughest lessons he learned as a pro came in his early days in Seattle, when he found out in a hurry that it didn't matter what he did or how good he was at Oregon State, playing professionally is a completely different animal.
And as he stressed to the Raiders rookies, "whatever you were in college, that's over."
"College is over, you're going to become a pro now," Payton said. "Everybody in the pros now was a great college player too. That's why they got drafted, and that's why they're here."
In addition to the work that he does with the NBA, Payton is also a fan of the Silver and Black – he did grow up in Oakland after all – citing Lester Hayes as one of his favorite players, and for a guy who has played all over the world, the Hall of Famer knows there's something special about putting on the Silver and Black.
"Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, there it is. That's football," Payton said. "That's American football. When you come in here… that Silver and Black with that that helmet on there, that's something. That's something to a lot of people around the world. They love this Silver and Black, that's just what it is, and for a kid who grew up watching the Silver and Black, when you watch Kenny Stabler, when you watch Dave Casper, when you watch Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, all these types of guys… We used to always say, we want to be a Raider because they were always the tough Raiders, they were always tough. Al Davis always put that into the Raiders."
And if all goes to plan, this current crop of young Raiders will follow suit in that mold, and Payton hopes that he could help in even the smallest way in them getting there.
NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton spoke to the 2018 Raiders rookie class followed by an evening of bowling, bocce ball and arcade games.