Gary Payton II Has Made His Hall of Fame Father Proud

Gary Payton Sr. (left) speaks at Gary Payton II’s Pouring Possibilities: A Fundraiser Mixer Benefitting Dyslexia event in Napa, California, on March 17. Ramil Sumalpong/Iconic Lab

Written by Marc J. Spears | Andscape | March 20, 2024

NAPA, Calif. – The event appeared to be winding down as Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II delivered closing remarks during his inaugural Pouring Possibilities: A Fundraiser Mixer Benefitting Dyslexia, which raised more than $80,000 on Sunday. The DJ at Eleven Eleven Winery was about to spin R&B and rap on the second floor as patrons such as rapper E-40 headed to the glistening pool. But before one song could be played or another glass of vino poured, former NBA star Gary Payton Sr. surprised everyone when he walked to the podium and praised his son.

“Listen, my son didn’t come up bad. But I was going at him a lot telling him he wasn’t going to make it and things like that. He took the hard road where he went to junior college. He came after me at Oregon State,” Payton Sr. said. “We were only [expecting] $50,000 and now we have $80,000. That’s amazing. I never get in his way no more. The simple fact is that I was hard on him. Nowadays, I sit back. And I’m very proud of my son because I can just sit back and just say nothing. Just do nothing. And that’s great.

“But the real thing about my son is, I don’t care about basketball. I really don’t. The best thing about him is every time somebody walks up to me, they tell me how great of a human being my son is. I don’t care about basketball. I really don’t because everything they say about your son is, ‘He’s great. He’s a great human.’ ”

Payton II stood against a wall listening intently, holding a glass of wine in his left hand and wiping away tears with his right forearm. He said later that his father’s words brought up confusion and pain from his childhood. Gary Payton Sr. gave his son the same renowned Oakland, California, tough love that he received from his father, Al “Mr. Mean” Payton. His father’s tough love, Payton Sr. said, pushed him to become an NBA star.

Payton II said he and his father clashed for years because he didn’t understand the method to his tough love. But now, just like his father was, Payton II is an NBA champion, a menacing defender, and an NBA veteran. In front of a crowd that included his mother Monique, sister Raquel Payton Childs, family friend E-40, NBA agent Aaron Goodwin and others, it meant the world to Payton II to hear for the first time how proud his father was of him.

“As a kid I was [verbally] fighting with him,” said Payton II, whose Warriors host the Memphis Grizzlies on ESPN Wednesday night (10 p.m. ET). “And now hearing him say what he said, it just brought out everything from when I was a kid. All the emotions. Just being hard and me thinking he was picking on me, not knowing that it came from love.

“Everything is finally coming out. I’m finally letting it go and moving on. I never heard that from him. This is different.”

Top photo, from left to right: Rapper E-40, Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II and Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton Sr. attend the Pouring Possibilities: A Fundraiser Mixer Benefitting Dyslexia event on March 17 in Napa, California. Bottom photo: Gary Payton II with his mother, Monique Payton.

Being the son of a Basketball Hall of Famer didn’t guarantee anything for Payton II other than added pressure and a familiar last name.

Payton II didn’t have the grades to qualify for a college scholarship after high school. He attended prep school for a year and played juco basketball for two years before following in his father’s footsteps to Oregon State. He was waived by NBA teams four times in six years and spent five years in the NBA G League and found stability with the Warriors in 2021 after earning their final roster spot.

“He was the No. 2 pick [in the NBA draft] and got recruited to go anywhere he wanted to,” Payton II said about his father. “I was literally the opposite. It took him a while to understand that. But he understands it [now], has accepted it and realizes I have my own path to figure out. He has seen that I figured it out.”

Payton Sr. credited Warriors coach Steve Kerr believing in his son as the reason he finally solidified his spot in the NBA. Kerr loved Payton’s II’s athleticism, “game-changer” on-ball defense and how he played at a “high level” with All-Star guard Stephen Curry.

“I like guys who had to fight for everything and have had to deal with adversity and ups and downs,” Kerr said. “You always root for guys like that. But there is an inherent thread about them. There is a reason that Gary, five years coming out of college, was still fighting his way to get into the league. He played for six or seven G League teams … That kind of grit is enticing.”

Payton II’s basketball story is also a motivational one that can’t be told without detailing his experience with dyslexia.

Monique Payton was an avid reader, took her children to the library and was big on her children reading books 20 to 30 minutes every night. Payton II’s younger brother Julian and older sister Raquel easily completed their mother’s request. Payton II, however, struggled and couldn’t understand why. His mother constantly heard him mumbling to himself and would press him to speak up. Payton II was also perplexed while trying to keep up with his classmates in school.

“I didn’t know why I couldn’t figure it out and everyone else in my class could,” Payton II said.

Payton II’s fourth grade teacher told his mother that her son should be tested for dyslexia. While initially very defensive, she eventually agreed to allow her son take the test. Results revealed that he indeed had dyslexia and he immediately received the tutoring and everything else he needed to complete his education from elementary school onward. He now has a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State.

“I was still confused at that age,” Payton II said. “I have a learning disability. What does that really mean? Do I [have] to go on a different path, go do different things from what my classmates were doing? But I got a tutor and broke down how to learn and make things make sense to me. It became normal. It was a different way than my classmates learned.

“We got the help I needed to figure it out my way of learning and how to break down certain things. I just stuck to the process and continued to ask for help at whatever level I went through.”

Payton Sr. and Monique Payton recall being stunned to find out that their son had dyslexia.

“It hit me tough because at that time in the ’90s, we didn’t have a lot of solutions for that,” Payton Sr. said. “We thought it was going to be a problem.”

“There were so many emotions. I felt guilty because I was so hard on him. I would tell him, ‘Speak up, son. Stop mumbling. No one is going to understand you.’ I was sad because this whole time I didn’t know I wasn’t there for him acknowledging what he was going through to support him,” Monique Payton said.

Raquel Payton-Childs, sister of Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II and executive director of the GPII Foundation, speaks at the Pouring Possibilities: A Fundraiser Mixer Benefitting Dyslexia event on March 17 in Napa, Cailfornia.

Mariah L. Pospisil of the University of California San Francisco spoke at the Gary Payton II (GPII) Foundation event. The lifelong educator and advocate for education has worked with hundreds of students with dyslexia.

“The International Dyslexia Association defines it as a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin,” Pospisil said. “It’s characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from the phonological or sound-based component of language and is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Neuroscientists have identified brain patterns or neurosignatures present in people with dyslexia.”

Pospisil added that children from marginalized communities or who are dealing with systemic racism face more formidable challenges to learn they have dyslexia and get the aid to treat it. She said African American students are underdiagnosed with dyslexia and are overdiagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders. Moreover, Pospisil said, the foundation and similar ones are critical for Black, Hispanic and multilingual children with dyslexia.

“I understand why you may mumble or say stuff under your breath because you don’t have that confidence,” Payton II said. “You don’t want to say something and be wrong. It’s a primal thing when you’re young because you can’t understand it. It’s OK to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. For African American kids, learning is huge for them confidencewise and to carry on as they grow.”

Payton II is averaging 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds off the bench in 15.3 minutes for the Warriors this season. As a player for the Warriors, which have a “platform that is huge,” Payton believes he can attract more attention to his charitable work for dyslexia.

Payton II says he is more comfortable speaking out about dyslexia now because of the number of people he is helping.

“I didn’t realize how many people went through what I went through at a young age growing up,” Payton II said. “With my personality and how I can naturally be a light about this situation and topic, I can promote this with possibly the biggest brand they have in sports. You can touch a lot of people …

“It’s been incredible how many kids and adults say, ‘I have dyslexia.’ ‘My kid is dyslexic.’ At least one person in every city says something. When I walk out to the bus there is at least someone in each city [who says it]. They are happy that I am using my platform for a good cause. It’s really mind-blowing to me.”

Payton II thought it was “amazing” that his foundation raised more than $80,000 for dyslexia awareness. He expressed strong appreciation to his mother, Monique and sister, Raquel — executive director chair and executive director of the foundation, respectively — for bringing relentless passion and energy while building awareness for dyslexia. Even as tough as Payton Sr. is on Payton II, all he could offer was love and pride for what his son accomplished for his charity.

“My pride for him is beyond now,” Payton Sr. said. “I don’t really care about basketball. Basketball ain’t s— to me. I just think about this situation we’re in right now, his human being side, about people liking him for the human being he is.

“Basketball is going to come. We’re talented. But it’s the human being side. When people come up to me and say, ‘One thing I like about you is you did a great job with your kid, because he’s a great person,’ that is the only thing I care about.”

Read the story here