It had been a brutal NBA road trip for the Seattle SuperSonics,
five cities in eight days. On March 5, still feeling the effects
of the travel, Marty White, Trevor Pope and Glen King arrived at
Seattle's Key Arena later than usual for the first home game in
nearly two weeks. They dropped off their black Chevy Silverado
truck with the attendant in the team's parking lot, then entered
the arena through a VIP door. Dressed in billowy sweaters and
leather jackets, they strutted confidently into the locker room
area, giving ushers and team employees a wink or a warm hello.
At the lip of the tunnel leading to the court, a guard smiled at
the threesome. "Good luck tonight, guys," he said.
Despite appearances to the contrary, White, Pope and King do not
play for the Sonics. Pope and White are boyhood friends of
Seattle's star point guard, Gary Payton. King is Payton's older
cousin. The three men all live in Seattle, where they work for
Payton, serving as his personal assistants, chauffeurs, de facto
bodyguards and nearly constant companions--the Glove's gloves, so
to speak. They accompany him to All-Star Games, summer workouts
in Las Vegas, autograph signings, commercial shoots. They travel
to all of Seattle's 41 road games; at home games they sit either
in Payton's private luxury box or in the club seats opposite the
Seattle bench. "Them's my boys," says Payton, his raspy voice
full of affection. "The Sonics are my team, but in a way these
guys are my team too. They go everywhere with me."
It's no exaggeration. A few years ago Sonics season-ticket
holders Mark and Nikki Mahan paid $17,000 for Payton and teammate
Vin Baker to come to their house and cook them dinner. The money
went to Payton's charitable foundation. For that, the Mahans
could have expected an intimate meal with two of their favorite
players. When Payton showed up, Pope and White were in tow. Were
the Mahans surprised by the extra company? "Not really," says
Nikki. "Vin had arrived about five minutes earlier and brought a
few of his guys too."
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY SALTER GARY'S GUYS Payton (far right) may be a demanding boss, but he takes his peeps on the road, puts them up in $300-a-night hotel rooms and occasionally offers a spin on his yacht.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY SALTER LORENZEN'S LOYALISTS For $2,000 a month from Wright (seated), boyhood friend Raw Dawg (black umbrella) acts as a gofer, driver, workout partner and wakeup service.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY SALTER TIM'S TEAM Miles (back left), a former Philadelphia deputy sheriff, was so effective as a bodyguard for Thomas (wearing cross) that the Bucks made him their director of security.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY SALTER RASHARD'S RETINUE Parents Leroy and Juanita Brown (under stairs) and best pal Eskridge (far right) eased the transition from high school to NBA life for Lewis (seated).
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY SALTER BARON'S BOYZ Refusing to abandon his lifelong friends from South Central for "Poindexter and Penderpuss," Davis (front) flies his guys in for Hornets games to help assess his play.
B/W PHOTO: GORDON PARKS/TIMEPIX RAY'S RETAINERS In 1951 a French midget was among those who traveled with Robinson (center), who had what may have been the first big-time posse in sports.