NBA Hall of Famer visits Carleton

Carleton may have a storied history of basketball success, but a living embodiment of what you can accomplish as a basketball player visited the school earlier this week.

Gary Payton, a National Basketball Association (NBA) hall of famer and basketball legend, made an appearance at the Ravens’ Nest on Sept. 4 to help out with the Carleton-hosted NBA Campus Pass event.

Carleton was the first stop on a tour that Payton and the NBA are currently embarked on to help promote the league and the sport of basketball as a whole at different Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The tour is part of an ongoing initiative by the NBA to grow the game internationally outside of the United States.

Payton was selected to the NBA all-star team nine times during his 18-year career. He won the 2006 NBA Championship with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal while he was a member of the Miami Heat.

“It’s good to go around to different countries and promote things like this. Fans can get out and see more of the [NBA] legends,” Payton said. “The NBA is doing a great job of keeping [the sport] in everyone’s community.”

Before taking part in the day’s activities, Payton met with members of the Ravens men’s basketball team, who head into this season as the defending U Sports national champions for the seventh consecutive year.

“The game has grown a lot [in Canada], especially at this university. I heard that they have a lot of tradition and a lot of championships,” Payton said.

In terms of how Carleton’s team may stack up talent-wise against National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball teams in the U.S., Payton refused to speculate.

“It’s really impossible to compare. We haven’t seen them against a Kentucky, a North Carolina, or a Duke. What I would love to see is them match-up with some of those top [NCAA] schools,” Payton said.

Outside of Victoria, B.C. native and former NBA star Steve Nash, Canadian basketball had been sparsely talked about in the global community until just recently.

In the last five years, two Canadian basketball players, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, were selected first overall in the 2014 and 2013 NBA drafts respectively.

Payton said that those selections should lead the way for other Canadian players to follow.

“Andrew Wiggins has really started something. He is trying to make it and some other guys are coming into [the NBA] as well,” Payton said, “Even the Canadian national team is doing well.”

The national team that Payton is referring to is the Canadian men’s under-19 team that captured gold at this year’s under-19 FIBA basketball World Cup. Led by 17-year-old Mississauga, Ont. star R.J. Barrett, Canada upset the top-ranked U.S. team in the semi-finals.

Payton said he wants to see more future NBA players like Barrett coming out of Canada. He said that it is a driving factor for why he takes part in promotional events like the one hosted at Carleton this week.

“Not a lot of them [Canadian players] have been in the NBA, but we have to give them the opportunity to do so. If they can play, the league will give them that opportunity,” Payton said.

Participants of the NBA Campus Pass event took part in various basketball-related games and competitions, such as a three-point shootout and skills challenge, while also having the opportunity afterwards to meet Payton himself.

“I am an ambassador for the NBA and this is what I like: going around to different countries and advertising the game,” Payton said, “We want to show the fans out there that they can be more involved with the league and the league’s big names. It is about promoting, but also about giving back.”

Payton and the NBA Campus Pass tour will stop next at Memorial University in St. John’s, NL, later this week.

Photo by Dan Robertson