There was once a time when Hall of Famer and former Seattle SuperSonics star point guard Gary Payton was just a young rookie in the NBA. That was during the 1990-91 season, when a 22-year-old out of Oregon State kicked off what would become an illustrious NBA career.
As traditions in the NBA go, Payton wasn’t exempted from rookie hazings from his veteran teammates in his first year in the league. Among those who relished on toying with Payton was former NBA forward Xavier McDaniel. The X-Man was one of the baddest players of his era, and when Payton once tried to defy the orders of McDaniel, he quickly learned it wasn’t a very good idea at all.
As Gary Payton tells in a story on The Players’ Tribune, McDaniel nearly choked the point guard out after Payton made the wrong move of standing up to the veteran.
Xavier — I was his rookie, so I had to do everything for him. One day in practice, I was done with that sht. I told him, “Man, nah, fck that, I ain’t doing sht you say.” Xavier looked at me and was like, “Young boy, you ain’t even did sht in this league and you’re trying to fcking tell me what the fuck to do? You gotta pay dues like I paid dues.”
I said straight up, “What the fck you gon’ do? I ain’t paying fcking sh*t.”
This is what Xav did. He grabbed me by my neck — middle of practice. And put me in one of those sleepers, right with everyone watching and everything. I was about to go out, and then he let me go. He told me, “If I have to beat your ass every time, you’re gonna listen to me.”
Unlike P.J. Carlesimo and Latrell Sprewell, though, the choking incident didn’t sour their relationship. In fact, Gary Payton said that he and McDaniel remain very good friends to this day.
That sh*t was a wake-up call. After that, I did everything he said. What’s funny is that me and Xav are still tight to this day. Honest to God, no lie, my career wouldn’t have been the same if I had got drafted by a team with all kids my same age. I know that for sure. Most teams today don’t have a dude like Xav that’s gonna lay the law down on you. A dude like that who’s looking out for you.
Payton ended his NBA career at the age of 38 with the Miami Heat in 2007, even winning a title with the team a year before. But it’s his days with the Sonics that most fans will remember him for the most. This story of Xavier McDaniel almost killing Payton will just make his stint in Seattle even more memorable.