Gary Payton Faces Trash Talk From NBA Fans, Even in Retirement

Over their years on the hardwood, certain NBA players can develop specific reputations. Gary Payton, for example, is largely remembered as a fierce defender with a sharp tongue. Whether he was facing Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, or anyone in between, the Glove wasn’t one to back down from a challenge.

While that may seem like an ideal legacy — fans love players who are willing to fight and claw for every inch — it has had a less-than-ideal consequence. Even in retirement, Payton finds himself facing trash talk from the very people who watched him play.

Sound unbelievable? Allow the guard to explain.

NBA fans apparently trash-talk Gary Payton just to say they did

Gary Payton disagrees with a referee during his NBA career.
If you talk trash to Gary Payton, you’re doing so at your own risk. | Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If you’ve spent years watching the NBA from afar, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hit the hardwood and play alongside your favorite stars. While that dream is probably a bit out of reach, some brushes with greatness are a bit more accessible. Take, for example, trash-talking Gary Payton.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of people’s main thing,” the Glove told Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy in 2020. “They’ll see me somewhere and then they’ll say something to try to get me to go back and forth with them. Then, they’re like, ‘This is all I wanted! This is why I came up to you! They always say that you trash-talked a lot on the court, so we wanted to hear it and see if you trash talk everywhere!’”

As a veteran of verbal warfare, though, Payton can’t engage with everyone who talks a bit of smack. At this point in his life, he has a solid sense of when to spar and when discretion is the better part of valor.

“You know if it’s someone who is trying to egg you on to do something,” the guard continued. “A lot of people, a lot of fans, will do things just because they want to see if they can push your buttons. Sometimes, you’ll go along with it and have fun with it; sometimes, you just have to let it go because some people let it get out of hand. But, yes, it does happen.”

Based on his NBA resume, Gary Payton probably isn’t someone to mess with

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As Payton himself said, it could be a thrill for an NBA fan to engage with one of the most notable trash-talkers in modern basketball history. At the same time, though, the Glove’s resume suggests that you should cross him at your own risk.

Take, for example, an incident that occurred during the 1990s. As the story goes, Payton and Seattle teammate Ricky Pierce got into a disagreement during a playoff game. According to George Karl, the players said they had guns in their bags and even went as far as threatening to kill each other’s families. The Glove also tried to fight his own head coach later in the series, throwing a bit more fuel onto the fire.

Is that a man you’d want to randomly insult on the street?

Even if we look at less dramatic moments, Payton still comes across as a metaphorical sleeping dog that it’s best to let lie. He called Sidney Lowe a “smurf,” fearlessly went after Isiah Thomas as a rookie, and accidentally insulted Lamar Odom’s late mother. While the Glove did apologize for that last episode — he says he didn’t know about her death and instantly regretted crossing the line — the implication is still clear. The guard knows how to talk trash, and he isn’t afraid to flex those muscles.

So, if you happen to see Gary Payton on the street or at an NBA game and feel like this is your chance to trash-talk a former NBA player, you won’t be the first person to engage him in verbal warfare. Just know what you’re signing yourself up for.