He knew it was going to be an emotional game and night, but admittedly, his emotions were upped by the presence of his "little sister," eight-year-old Lacey Holsworth.
"Lacey was here for the last game, her parents were saying they were going to cry and I was like, ‘Man, don't cry,'" he said. "I didn't want them to cry. I just don't do well with people crying, especially people close to me."
Payne and the little girl from St. John's have formed a bond in the past couple years after the team visited her in the hospital. She had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, in addition to a tumor in her abdomen that wrapped around her spine and left her paralyzed for a couple months.
The pair have continued to forge a stronger relationship, so he invited her and her family to walk out with him as he was honored after his final home game.
"She means a lot, especially to this basketball program and to me," Payne said. "I think from now on, she's going to always be a part of the Michigan State family.
"It's a great thing that Michigan State and I are able to help people in need and to keep their lives going and their spirits up because we have such a huge impact on people's lives and we don't even know it."
Lacey recently has been undergoing more treatment when her cancer returned in November, so it wasn't a sure thing she would be able to walk out with him Thursday night. But when Payne emerged from the tunnel, Lacey was in his arms, holding flowers and smiling.
"I would like to thank Lacey's family and everybody for coming out and supporting me and just praying for Lacey because she's going through some hard times," Payne said in his postgame speech with Lacey standing next to him.
The Izzone was wearing shirts which read "One Step Closer" in support of Lacey, who didn't know the shirts would be made.
And even though the game and ceremonies didn't conclude until late in the night, Lacey was waiting outside the locker room for Payne to emerge with the rest of players' families.
"I've got family from everywhere now," Payne said Tuesday.