When Gary Payton was inducted into the basketball hall of fame, he made sure the whole world knew that he was a Supersonic. Payton won his only championship in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat, but Payton’s loyalty always remained in Seattle. Although his memory of former Supersonics’ owner, Howard Schultz, is not a fond one.
Starbucks mogul, Howard Schultz, became the owner of the Seattle Supersonics back in 2001, and according to Payton, the team and it’s morals crumbled shortly there after.
“When the Ackerleys (Popular Supersonics owner, Barry Ackerley) sold the team it went from being a family team to a business,” said Payton. “The people who took over the team ran their team like a business, like how they made their money, and you can’t do that.
“The Ackerleys ran the team like a family. When we had problems, they would call us in and talk to us. They would call us in and ask us what’s the problem, not try to trade you and tell you, ‘No, you don’t need a contract.’ You see where [Schultz’s style] got us, leading to another owner moving the team. And we knew he would move it to Oklahoma, we knew that. The Schultz group should have known that, too. We were the longest-standing team in Seattle and we let a guy just come in here and take it. Referring to Clayton Bennett”
Payton continues to show his dislike for Schultz, and his love for the city of Seattle and the Sonics as a franchise.
“He just messed up our whole [franchise] and people did leave Seattle alone when he owned the team,” said Payton. “That’s why he had to sell it again, because he was struggling. He made a lot of silly moves and the first silly move was getting rid of me.”
The ultimate departure of the Supersonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City, has been one that many fans across the league have struggled with. It’s hard to see a basketball city lose their team. Sure, Seattle has the Seahawks and the Mariners, but the city belonged to basketball, and the Sonics were a loved NBA franchise.
Payton also explained about the deal that sent him to Milwaukee in place of Ray Allen.
“I wasn’t asking for a lot; I never asked for a new contract [before my previous one expired],” Payton said about his final season in Seattle. “All I asked was whether we were going to get an extension [in the offseason] and [Schultz] made it seem like, ‘I don’t care about you no more, you’re nothing.’ So, that’s what happened. He [saw] that wasn’t the right way and the whole franchise went downhill from there.
“It was time to go. I didn’t want to work for this guy. He knew it and I knew it. We don’t have the right people running this squad. Why sit here and be miserable.”
At the end of the day, the NBA is a business, but it’s sad to hear how brutal this business can be at times. It’s easy for fans to miss the bigger picture at times, but the league can be as cut-throat as any other large business in the world today. Comments from legends like Payton really bring this sort of stuff to light.