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."