NBA

Why Gary Payton II is the star of the NBA championship celebration

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Gary Payton II said he was going to go all out with JR Smith on the Golden State Warriors championship parade. On Monday, he absolutely kept his word.

Just like the Cavaliers guard who jumped from wearing a top after his team beat the Warriors in 2016, there was Payton on the streets of San Francisco, shirtless, rocking black shades and a championship hat flipped to the top of the bus he shared with James Wiseman throughout most of the Monday festivities. But the same boldness that made Payton a fixture in the Warriors rotation this season was the same that made him the life of the parade.

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“I have the green light to do anything, so if we’re going to celebrate with the Dub Nation, we’re going to celebrate with the Dub Nation,” Payton told The Chronicle.

Payton fired water pistols into the crowd and showered Warriors fans with champagne. On numerous occasions throughout the event, he jumped off his bus to greet fans. Eventually, Wiseman was inspired to get off the bus and have fun too.

“It was a long time coming,” Wiseman said. “It’s our first championship, so we’ll cherish it for sure.”

Gary Payton II seemed to spend as much time off the bus as he did on it, going from hosing down the fans with his squirt gun to squirting a golden bottle of champagne. Video: Chase DiFeliciantonio

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Payton, 29, was the last Warriors player to make the preseason roster. His season ended with him lifting a championship trophy with legions of fans shouting his name. His father, former Seattle SuperSonics great Gary Payton Sr., quietly sat in the back of the bus surrounded by family and friends and watched his son’s parade antics unfold in real time.

Payton was compared to his Hall of Fame father for most of his young life. Naturally, this was accompanied by immense pressure and high expectations. Now a full-fledged NBA champion, the Young Glove is charting its own course. And his dad couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished.

“It feels good,” said Payton Sr. “He went through a struggle for six years trying to make it through the G-League, didn’t get drafted. It was just a shame there was no had no team drafting him. And then all of a sudden he becomes a big part of the Golden State Warriors by winning a championship. Now that journey is over, and he gets it. Now he can laugh at everybody and say ‘ah-ha’, and I like that.

It was not what people would have expected from Payton a year ago. Since playing at Oregon State and entering the NBA in 2017, Payton had bounced through the Bucks, Lakers and Wizards between several G-League stints. His breakthrough to finally stay this season as the 29-year-old’s journeyman was a reward for the Warriors’ confidence in both his defensive skills and his growth on the offensive end of the floor.

He has earned playoff starts. He came back from a pretty ugly game that broke his elbow against the Grizzlies in the semi-finals. His return in time to play in the Finals was inspirational, helping the Warriors even the series against the Celtics. So, in his long journey to get to this parade, he has earned the right to soak up every moment of love from the fans.

“Now he’s a champion,” said Payton’s family friend and longtime coach Darrel “Peanut” Jordan.

Not all warriors were happy with the parade plan. While the team spoke in a controlled environment for television on the Embarcadero before their buses departed, there was no gathering with player speeches at the end of the course like in years past after the parades held. in Oakland. Draymond Green wasn’t too happy about that and, true to form, shared his thoughts about it on social media.

But guys like Payton had nothing to compare him to. For him, Monday’s championship parade was everything he hoped for.

“And more,” he said. “I started today expecting the unexpected, and I was not disappointed.”

Payton is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and should have plenty of potential suitors after becoming the Warriors’ first perimeter defenseman. Golden State has his Early Bird rights, so they can offer him up to around $10.9 million next season.

This time around, Payton is in control of his own destiny. He told reporters Saturday that he and his agent would seek a multi-year deal, and while the road ahead is uncertain, he hopes to be back with Golden State. But all that comes later. The job is done; he did his part. For now, Payton just wants to stay in the moment, rest and let everything else take care of itself.

“I’m going to relax and let my elbow fully heal and rest on this trophy and this ring,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get that money soon, and then we’ll go back to the lab.”

CJ Holmes covers the Warriors for The San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail: cj.holmes@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @CjHolmes22

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