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Gary Payton basketball workshop aims to inspire


Surrounded by kids learning basketball skills and more, Gary Payton shouts directions in a noisy Lake Roosevelt gymnasium last Thursday during a Colville Tribes-sponsored "Rise Above" event. - Jacob Wagner photo

NBA hall-of-famer Gary Payton came to the area Thursday to host a basketball workshop entitled "Rise Above." About 200 boys and girls of all ages had a blast performing basketball drills, playing games, and listening to Payton speak.

Payton's message was simple and strong: "Be a pro at being you. ... You have to have a goal in life. ... You can do whatever you want with your life. ... Grow up to be that person that you know you can be," Payton said to a gym full of kids, all wearing "Rise Above" T-shirts, giving him their full attention. "If you got a C in math, make your goal to get a B."

Payton encouraged the kids to strive to be a better version of themselves and not to slip up, offering them cautionary tales of his friends growing up who had great potential but went down the wrong paths of drugs and alcohol. Payton urged the kids to find role models who are consistently doing the right thing, but more importantly to become good role models themselves.

"You see Jordan or Kobe; you look up to them ... but you aren't them," he insisted. "You gotta be yourself. Be a pro at growing up ... be YOURself."

Payton emphasized that trying to be a professional athlete isn't a very practical goal, but that we can all make a difference just by being ourselves, being a better version of ourselves, and being goal-oriented and driven toward success. Emphasizing a focus on goals, Payton said he hopes that when he comes back someday, kids will say, "Hey, Coach Gary, I did this, or I did that." And if he reaches only a few kids, he'll feel that he's made a difference.

At the end of the camp, sponsored by the Colville Tribes, Payton and his fellow coaches each gave out signed certificates of achievement to the children who impressed them the most. He signed T-shirts and basketballs and posed for photos with all of the children, many of whom hadn't even been born by the time

Payton retired from the NBA in 2006, but who nonetheless realized they were in the presence of one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Gary "The Glove" Payton was the first-round second pick of the 1990 National Basketball Association draft.

He played 13 years with the Seattle SuperSonics, holding many records for the Sonics, including most points, assists, and steals.

He was the only point guard in the NBA to win Defensive Player of the Year.

He won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006 before retiring that same year.

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