‘Cam is Memphis. Cam is a grinder. Cam is a hooper.’ Cameron Paynes’ trainer describes his NBA comeback

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) reacts after hitting a three point shot against the...
Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)(Ashley Landis | AP)
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When Memphis trainer Raheem Shabazz was asked about Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, he responded, “Cam is Memphis. Cam is a grinder. Cam is a hooper. Cam has that Memphis swag, he has that Memphis hooper swag and he has that grit and grind in him, to his soul.”

Cameron Payne hasn’t had the easiest path in the NBA. He went from a lottery pick in the 2015 draft, to a punchline after a Chicago Bulls source told the Chicago Sun Times the organization knew after the second practice that Cam Payne couldn’t play at the NBA level. After bouncing around the league for four years, he was out.

“Look at Cameron Payne as an example,” Shabazz said. “He is living everything we talk about as athletes as people.”

When you walk into Shabazz Fitness in Cordova, you see about 100 of jerseys hanging on the walls of athletes Raheem Shabazz has trained. The first jersey you see is a Chicago Bulls Cam Payne jersey. A reminder to Payne of those who didn’t believe in him.

“He doesn’t know how to quit. That’s always been Cam,” Shabazz added.

Shabazz has trained Payne since his senior year at Lausanne. So it was no surprise to when Payne got a second chance in the NBA when he signed a two-year deal last June with the Suns.

“Preparation always meets opportunity. He just stays ready,” Shabazz said. “It wasn’t a surprise to me when he went to the bubble and flourished the way he did. He doesn’t know how to quit.”

When starting Suns point guard Chris Paul was out in health and safety protocols for the first two games in the Western Conference Finals, Cam Payne’s number was called. In game two he had a career night. Shabazz described watching the game like, “Watching one of my kids just flourish.”

Payne’s story has been called one of the best in the NBA this year. A player who once had it all going for him, was tested and came back to prove he belonged.

“I think him understanding him being a role model in the city of Memphis, it’s such a basketball city, if they see him quit, it’s going to be OK for them to quit and he absolutely refused to do it.”

According to Shabazz, Payne lives by the motto, ‘Don’t wake up, keep dreaming’ and Payne is living his dream right now.

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