MIAMI -- Gary Payton seriously considered accepting a free agent offer from the Miami Heat last week, but opted instead to join the Los Angeles Lakers because the lure of winning a championship was impossible to ignore.
Payton, in Miami for the weekend to participate in a charity event hosted by Alonzo Mourning, said Heat coach Pat Riley offered him a multi-year deal and nearly enticed him to accept it.
However, when Payton learned that Karl Malone was headed to the Lakers, he said the final choice was easy.
"When Karl said what he was going to do, I figured I couldn't miss that chance, playing with the Lakers," Payton said. "With four great players like us playing with each other, we're going to have a great chance to win a championship."
Payton and Malone, who can sign free-agent deals with the Lakers on Wednesday, will join Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant on a team that will be heavily favored to win its fourth NBA title in the last five years.
Neither Payton nor Malone have ever won a championship. Both will take significant pay cuts this coming season; Payton will earn $4.9 million, Malone will likely earn $1.4 million.
"Money and all that stuff doesn't equal a ring, because you'll always be in the books as winning a championship and being on one of the best teams ever to play the game," Payton said. "And I've been in the league 13 years. I've already gotten the big paychecks. I'll be fine."
"This is Kobe and Shaq's team. I have a job to do as well. I come in with nothing but respect, but I come in with a hard-working attitude to do what I need to do to help us win a championship."
-- F Karl Malone on July 10, shortly after news of his agreeing to sign with the Lakers as a free agent