Gary Payton is widely considered as one of the more unique two-way guards of his time and back in 1996, he gave Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls a run for their money in the NBA Finals. Eventually, it was the Bulls that came away victorious but the Seattle Supersonics will forever be respected for the fight they were able to give throughout that entire series.
The 1996 NBA Finals were a large part of the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” which was essentially a showcase of everything Jordan did throughout his career. At one point in the documentary, Jordan completely disses Payton as he laughs off Payton’s attempt at explaining how he was able to shut down Jordan in the series.
During a recent AMA with Bleacher Report, Payton spoke on the infamous scene from the documentary and how he fully understands Jordan’s mentality.
“It’s like this to me. He wouldn’t be Michael Jordan if he would have bowed down there. Everybody knows about his competitiveness. He was a guy who came every night to play. I respect him for that because I came every night to play. I was never gonna back down to him and he knew that,” Payton said. “If it was my documentary and they asked me the same thing I would have laughed too and been like ‘no he couldn’t go at me neither.’ Every night I played Michael Jordan he brought the best out of me. Wish I could have started off on him in the championship and it would have been better, but their team was better than mine at the time and they won it all. He did a documentary, he felt the way he felt. What I can do is I can say the same thing hahaha.”
It’s good to see that Payton has a sense of humor about the whole thing. Of course, Jordan is an ultra-competitive person, so his dismissive attitude should come as a surprise to no one. Regardless, you have to salute Payton for giving Jordan a difficult time in that matchup.
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