This Is for Dub Nation

Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

Shit happens. 

Sometimes it really is just as simple as that. 

I play basketball for a living. And sometimes when you play basketball, you get hurt. That night in Memphis, Game 2 … I got hurt. It happened. It was unfortunate. But to be honest with you, that’s about as deep as I go on it. 

With everything that went down on that play, and all the controversy and whatnot, you know what I remember most from when it happened? 

The free throws. 

I just really wanted to shoot those free throws after taking that fall. I didn’t want to be immediately heading to the locker room lookin’ all sad. Not until I got those points for my team. That’s all I could think about. And I’m still heated about missing one of them! 

Even after the X-rays showed it was an elbow fracture, and we knew I was gonna be out, I wasn’t angry about what went down. I was annoyed to miss time, especially in the playoffs, but I didn’t care about the foul. I’ve taken worse hits. I wasn’t mad or shook up about that. Also, for the record: There’s no bad blood between me and Dillon. After we closed out Game 6, I got word that he wanted to talk outside the locker room, and when I got there he apologized. I give Dillon a lot of credit for that — no text, no social media, nothing indirect. He came in person, and we talked like grown men. He told me he didn’t mean to hurt me. I believe him.

So, no, I’m not mad. I feel like maybe the whole world thought I was mad, though. Because once that game ended, my phone started blowing up — everyone tapping in and checking on me, making sure I wasn’t too upset or too down or whatever. And of course everyone with the Warriors, they’re all such good people and had my back, no question. I had a lot of people pissed on my behalf. And I love them for that. But I was good. 

I kept trying to tell everyone: You know who I am, right? It’s like … out for three to five weeks? Come on now. I’ve been through way worse than that as a basketball player. I’ve been scrapping for six years trying to break into the league. So a few weeks was never going to get me down.

Gary Payton II | Golden State Warriors | This Is for Dub Nation | The Players’ Tribune
Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

And like I said — shit happens. Time to move on.

I don’t have time to waste thinking about something bad that happened, or feeling sorry for myself. I have too much to feel positive about for all that. 

Honestly, even me just being on the Warriors, and being a part of this whole thing … I don’t take any of that for granted. I cherish every minute of it. I know how fortunate I am. Before this season, I’d had hernia surgery and was trying to make it back in time to show the team what I could do and grab a roster spot. Truth be told, I wasn’t 100% when the very last preseason game came around. But I was like, Bro, you gotta play. It’s either ball out in this game or you might be starting this shit all over again. Get dropped and you’re back in the G League, back at square one. 

So I balled out. Obviously. And I was proud of that. 

It wasn’t enough, though, I guess. After that game, our GM, Bob Myers, he pulls me aside and with this sad look he’s like, “Unfortunately, we have to let you go.” 

At that point, I was already numb to getting that type of news. I was always assuming the worst. It was like a protective shell I created for myself, I think, so that I didn’t get my hopes up too high about this NBA thing. 

But still … something about this time felt different. 

This was The Bay, you know what I’m saying? And I didn’t want to just turn the page. So I was like, Fuck it. Yeah, I’m cut, but I’m gonna stay here and work out with the team, regardless. 

Ha! I didn’t even know if that was something that was allowed. But I wanted to stay on the team’s radar, to let them know this is where I wanted to be. So after Bob broke the news to me, I was like, “Umm, well, you know what though … can I still come in tomorrow? And work out with the team and just like … be around?”

I’m laughing right now thinking back on it, about how ridiculous I must have sounded. I’m pretty sure it’s not what he was expecting me to say. But he said yes. 

Thank God.  

Bob said I could hang around, so that’s what I did. And I remember telling my agent at the time, “Hey, if I clear waivers and anyone calls about me, tell them I’m really just interested in getting back on the Warriors first and foremost.” That was my whole vibe at the time. Somehow, I’m getting back on this team.

Then, next thing I knew, a few days later they call me into a meeting room and it’s like, “GP — we see you, man. You made the team. You’ve got a spot on the roster.”

I’ll never forget that moment. It felt so good.

Gary Payton II | Golden State Warriors | This Is for Dub Nation | The Players’ Tribune
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

From Day One, back when I first got with this team, all I wanted more than anything was to just stick around — that was my motto. Because I knew that if I could just do that, eventually I was going to play my way into the rotation. I was going to make an impact, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind.

Early on, they’d bring guys in to have a look at them or whatever, and I’d D them up like my actual life depended on it. It was like, Nope. No sir. You are not taking my spot. Not today. I’d face guard those dudes all day long and let them know what was up. I wasn’t about to let nobody come in here and take this shit from me.

I was in the gym constantly. We’d be playing pickup or whatever, and I would just murder guys. No mercy. Just murder, murder, murder. I didn’t hold anything back. Oh yeah — and every day it was like, “I’m guarding Steph. Gimme Steph. 30, please.” Every damn day. That was my thing. Not even a question. It was: 1) Walk into the gym. 2) Guard Steph. And with those matchups, I mean … he’s one of the best ever to do it. So, you know, sometimes he’d get me. But I made sure it was never easy. I’d guard him just like I do everyone else — I’d use my hands, I’d bump him, I’d irritate him. And sometimes I’d get him. We’ve both won our fair share of battles.  

I always tell Steph, I tease him now, like: “Don’t ever let me change uniforms down the line and come get you. Don’t let that happen.” He just laughs. He plays along, though, too. We’ll see Bob Myers at the practice facility, and Steph will be like, “Don’t let that man go nowhere and have him guarding me in games. I don’t need that, Bob.” Hearing something like that from Steph? It means everything.

It means I’m doing exactly what I set out to do as a Warrior: stick around — and make an impact.

Gary Payton II | Golden State Warriors | This Is for Dub Nation | The Players’ Tribune
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

And that’s what I’m hoping to keep doing in these playoffs. I’m antsy as hell to be out there with my teammates again. Steph, Dray, Klay, Loon, JP, Wiggs, Andre … everyone. I feel blessed to be on this team. And I’m working my ass off to get back, I promise.

And then one last thing, before I get out of here, I have to give the biggest shout out to Dub Nation. 

I love the Bay so much … you don’t even understand. I used to be out here every summer with my dad. We’d spend his off-seasons in Oakland, and I have so many great memories of those times, and of all the people I got to know. So now to be back as an NBA player myself, and to be a part of this group we have, and this run we’re on? It’s unreal.

And I want to thank y’all for showing me that same love in return. I’m thankful for how much I’ve been accepted by this community, and for the appreciation I’ve gotten from our fans for just playing my game — stopping dudes on defense, scrapping for everything, just doing whatever it takes to win. Dub Nation gets me, for real. They know what I’m about. And that’s a special bond.

Thanks for taking the time to read this — it’s been a crazy few weeks, and a crazy season, so I had some thoughts I wanted to get down. But the only thing I’m thinking about now is trying to help this team win a championship. If we can make that happen, it will be a huge group effort. It’ll be all of us in this together. And I won’t lie … I have a really good feeling about it.

I always have a good feeling when I’m back in the Bay.