CEBU CITY – Even at age 48, NBA legend and Hall of Famer Gary Payton is still as brash as he was during his playing years.
Considered to be one of the best perimeter defenders of all time, the 1996 NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner declared that he absolutely didn’t have problems guarding anybody during his 17-year playing career. And yes, that includes Michael Jordan, the consensus greatest player of all time.
Asked who his toughest cover was during a career that saw him play for five different teams and win an NBA title in 2006 with the Miami Heat, Payton curtly said, “No one.”
However, he made mention of two all-time greats that he took great pleasure in competing against.
“It was a pleasure to guard John Stockton and Michael Jordan but I didn’t have any problems against anybody,” added the 6-foot-4 guard who is in Queen City of the South to open the first NBA Store outside of Manila, the NBA Store in Cebu.
The second pick of the 1990 draft, Payton arrived in Cebu on Wednesday morning and went to see the sights in the afternoon.
Shortly after paying a visit to the city’s famous landmark, the Magellan’s Cross in downtown Cebu, Payton went to Abellana National School where he met the public school’s boys and girls’ basketball teams.
“I went to a high school today and I saw all them young kids play and that’s what we are about: to support them and help them get better at what they do,” said Payton.
“They got to go out there and work hard. They have to have that mindset and passion to just leave it all out there on the court,” he added.
The Cebu experience got even better for the Oakland-native as he got a taste of the city’s most famous gastronomic delight – lechon.
As for basketball, Payton remarked that he already knew plenty about the state of basketball here in the country and was excited to see its improvement up close.
“I didn’t have to learn anything. I already knew about Philippine basketball. I already knew that they were trying to build themselves up and that’s why the NBA is over here because we know that. We want to help them build it up more. Help more people get into the NBA and get them to understand how to work hard and hopefully, get them into the NBA.”