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Payton, Fiancee Finally Give Marriage A Shot Supersonics Superstar Ties The Knot, With Kemp Absent, For $200,000 Tab

Gary Payton married his longtime fiancee Monique James in a lavish ceremony Saturday evening - without the presence of Seattle SuperSonics teammate Shawn Kemp.

Kemp had been scheduled to be in the wedding party but told Payton on Thursday he would not attend, said Payton’s agent Aaron Goodwin.

Kemp, who’s been frustrated in his efforts to get traded from the Seattle team, said he wanted to avoid awkward confrontations with Sonics management. Those attending included owner Barry Ackerley, team president Wally Walker, coach George Karl and vice president Billy McKinney.

Last week, Walker said Payton’s wedding was “neither the time nor place to talk shop” with Kemp.

Kemp, along with other celebrities, also was scared off by advance publicity of the nuptials, Goodwin said.

Several of Payton’s friends said Kemp’s absence was a source of great disappointment to the groom, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.

The couple’s two children, Raquel and Gary II, were included in the wedding party.

A crowd of 400 to 500 guests witnessed the ceremony at the Sheraton Palace grand ballroom, which was festooned with flowers, pink rose light projections and a canopied altar.

The festivities, estimated to cost $200,000, covered three crystal-chandeliered halls of the hotel.

James strolled the aisle in an elegant but simple white creation by New York designer Vera Wang that featured puffs of chiffon and a bustier ringed with lace. Her 14 bridesmaids wore even simpler white Wang designs.

Payton and his 13 groomsmen wore black tuxedos and black suede shoes embossed with a picture of a basketball and hoop.

Ever one to seize a moment, Payton mugged and shrugged at the crowd during the “for richer or poorer” part of the traditional wedding vows. The $87.5 million contract he signed with the Sonics last summer would indicate poverty is not be likely.

Sonics co-captain Nate McMillan served as one of Payton’s groomsmen, as did teammates Greg Graham and Jim McIlvaine. The Magic’s Brian Shaw, a native of Oakland like Payton, was one of four best men.

Ex-Sonic Eddie Johnson, Vancouver’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Phoenix’s Jason Kidd and Sacramento’s Mitch Richmond were other NBA players in attendance.

Television star Mark Curry and rapper Hammer, friends of Payton, also were present.

Payton said he and James will have a “double-hit” honeymoon, beginning Sunday in the Virgin Islands and picking up the next month in Paris.

Only three newspapers were allowed to cover the wedding. Television and radio crews were excluded.

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