The birth of GP2's perfect head-scratching dunk celebration


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Gary Payton II in the Warriors' Game 1 win Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals was inserted into the starting lineup as a defensive-stopper to counter star point guard Ja Morant and the rest of the Grizzlies' track stars looking to push the pace. 

It also doesn't hurt having Payton be a highlight-reel dunker who can get the Warriors' bench off its feet and hush a rowdy road crowd in the NBA playoffs. Not even five minutes into Golden State's 117-116 comeback win, Payton leapt off two feet for his latest poster dunk. 

With the score all tied up at 10 points apiece, Payton rolled off a screen set for Steph Curry, who hit him with a right-hook pass on the run. Payton took his two steps, gathered off two feet and then ... bam! Picture perfect, with Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane being his latest victim. 

Bane is listed as questionable for Tuesday night's Game 2 contest with lower back soreness. Not included on the injury report was poster-dunk pain. Yes, it's a real thing. 

Payton didn't need to yell after the ferocious slam. He didn't need to wave his arms, raise the roof or hit Bane with any other boisterous celebration. The 29-year-old already has his own perfectly subtle dunk celebration that couldn't fit him any better. 

All it consists of is a very slight stare while backpedaling to defense, and more importantly a head-scratch with his right hand. Flawless execution.

"I'm just confused," Payton said of his signature dunk celebration to NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday after shootaround. "It's just confusing for me." 

Call it the "Head-Scratch" if you want or even add an "er" at the end if that's your preference. A picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, video proof of a nasty slam -- this time under the bright lights of the playoffs. 

Payton himself doesn't have a name for it and doesn't need one. He says he didn't have a favorite dunk celebration growing up or any other inspiration. This is his own concoction, and just like his NBA career, it's here to stay. 

"That one just came to me," he said. "I'm just confused. I'm confused why you guys keep jumpin' with me." 

Back in late January, Payton unleashed the celebration on Indiana Pacers 7-foot center Goga Bitadze. Another Curry assist to Payton produced another posterization. Not a single word was said from Payton, and yet the stare and head-scratch got under the big man's skin so bad that he headbutted the Warriors' high-flier and was ejected from a tight game in the fourth quarter.

RELATED: Hard to miss clear similarities between Warriors, Grizzlies

From spending two years at Salt Lake Community College to going undrafted out of Oregon State, grinding through the NBA G League and earning the 15th and final spot on the Warriors' roster the same day as the opener this season, Payton has endured quite the journey to get to this point. 

Payton 100 percent has earned one of the game's best new dunk celebrations, too.

He isn't loud, he's far from obnoxious. His game and impact on winning do all the talking needed, just as his poster dunks bring headaches to Warriors opponents, who should be wary whenever he gets ready for takeoff. 

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