By Chris Edwards

It's hard to picture Gary Payton wanting to quit playing basketball early in his career, but it almost happened.

Payton says that he was so down during his early years with the Seattle Supersonics that he contemplated giving up the game.

Payton admitted that he struggled in his first two years under coach K.C. Jones, and that if there wasn't a coaching change he might've quit playing. In his third year, George Karl replaced K.C. Jones and Payton became one of the top guards in the NBA.

“I was thinking about it. I was like, ‘What am I out here for? This isn’t even what I want to do. I’m not happy.’ I didn’t want to do anything….

“If we wouldn’t have changed coaches (from K.C. Jones to George Karl), I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore.

“I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that.”
I remember Gary’s struggles. He was on the brink of being labeled a bust, but then Karl got hired and his career begin to take off. He clearly wasn't the player he was at Oregon State until he was able to play in a system that fit his talents.


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