Gary Payton Critiques Modern NBA: Emphasis on Dunks Over Defense

Exploring Gary Payton's Impact on NBA Defensive Strategy.

by Nouman Rasool
Gary Payton Critiques Modern NBA: Emphasis on Dunks Over Defense
© Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Gary Payton, known as "The Glove" for his defensive prowess, recently expressed his views on the current state of the NBA, emphasizing a noticeable shift from defense to offense. Payton, who distinguished himself as a premier backcourt defender during his era, observes a stark contrast in today's game, where scoring takes precedence over defensive strategies.

In a candid conversation with Rolling Stone in 2014, Payton lamented the fading importance of defense in the modern NBA. He noticed that not only players but also fans have shifted their focus to high-scoring games and flashy dunks.

This change in preference, according to Payton, has led to a decline in players who prioritize defense, like he did in his time. Payton, a nine-time NBA All-Defensive team honoree, a steals champion, and a Defensive Player of the Year, feels that current players are less inclined to pursue these defensive accolades, choosing instead to focus on scoring and highlight-reel plays.

He notes a general lack of emphasis on defense in team strategies as well. Reflecting on his career, Payton highlighted how his commitment to defense significantly enhanced his team's performance. He believes that many in today's NBA underestimate the impact of a solid defense, both in terms of individual effort and team dynamics.

Payton reminisced about the defensive strategy employed by his coach, George Karl, with the Seattle Supersonics, emphasizing how it hinged on creating turnovers and easing the game's flow.

Payton's Defensive Legacy

Payton’s approach was not just about stealing the ball; it was about setting an example for his teammates.

He described how his hard work in defense would inspire his teammates to intercept passes and create more opportunities for the team, thereby making a collective effort to strengthen their defense. Apart from his observations on the game's evolution, Payton, known for his outspoken nature and trash-talking skills, also expressed a desire for a hypothetical matchup between players of his era and those of the current NBA.

He argued that such a contest would settle debates about the relative merits of different basketball eras. Payton confidently stated that players from his time were not only athletic but also focused on "locking guys down" and playing a more physical game.