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Gary Payton

It's the most cliché argument in NBA circles: "Oh, that player from that past generation couldn't handle the competition in the present." Well, with Gary Payton, it's the opposite. As a score-first point guard, Payton had a game that was ahead of his era.

"John Stockton and J-Kidd were more of traditional point guards," says Payton, a Hall of Famer who made all nine All-Star Games from 1994-2003. "They got everybody involved. They didn't care about scoring. They wanted to get all the stats, get the triple-doubles and make sure their team won. I'm the one who really turned that knob and opened the door for point guards of being more of a scorer, for being more of a dominant player on the offensive end and then take over on the defensive end.

"Yeah, the Westbrooks and Kyries are like me, everybody is like that. I think that I was ahead of my time because I was more of a scoring point guard than most of the point guards during that day. I mean, Tim Hardaway was probably the only point guard that scored. Kevin Johnson did it a little bit."

Payton averaged at least 19.0 points in nine straight seasons but he made his presence felt on the defensive end. Payton was first team on the NBA's all-defense selections nine times and Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 when he took the Seattle SuperSonics to Game 6 of the NBA Finals before losing to Chicago.

As a fan now, when it comes to scoring vs. defense, Payton is conflicted, but he can't ignore the excitement of getting buckets.

"The most enjoyable thing is all the scoring," he says. "The 3-point thing, you can almost compare it to a video game. I'm a defensive guy. I wish there was more defense in there, but this is the era it is at right now and it's scoring. When you have point guards who can put up 50-60 points and then guys like Kyrie, who put on a show with all the dribbling acts and can make shots in bunches, it's very entertaining. That's what people want to see.

"The question is always, 'What would you have done in this era?' And we don't know. My mentality would have been defense and that style of play and we don't know if that would have happened. So, when I go and watch today, I have to always think about 2017-2018, this is what it is and this is the era that changed. I think about the era of the 80s when Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird were going at it, and it was very, very tough. Then it came to my era and we were playing the same way. I still enjoy going because it's a lot of young players in there today that can play the game and are very talented. You think about, 'Could Westbrook have played in my day?' or 'Could LeBron or KD have played in my day?' You always think that when you go to the games."

When Payton attends games, current players take the time to greet him, as many grew up witnessing The Glove's greatness.

"They say, 'I'm a legend, an icon, the OG,' and stuff like that," Payton explains. "That's how they talk. That's them saying, 'I grew up watching you,' and that's what it's all about when kids come up to you like that. It's nice to see a kid that's really dominating the game right now and then they say, 'I grew up watching you as a little kid.' Isaiah Thomas is one of my kids, and he does it all the time. He tells me all the time, 'Remember when I used to come to your camps?' For me, to see them be effective and very productive in this type of NBA, it gives me a good chill when they say, 'We learned this from your camp.'

Thomas, of course, grew up watching Payton as his hometown NBA star, which unfortunately for kids in Seattle today isn't a possibility.

Payton spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of the NBA, which released first returns for 2018 All-Star Game voting Thursday.

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