“They knew I was the top defensive player, and he was the top offensive player”


Michael Jordan had some great battles with Gary Payton during the 1990s. Jordan and Payton faced each other in the 1996 NBA Finals. Payton recently opened up about his rivalry with Jordan while on a trip to Spain.

In an interview with Marca, Payton discussed a plethora of topics. He spoke about his inclusion in the NBA 75, his battles with Jordan, and his son, Gary Payton II, playing the 2022 Finals.

The reporter asked “The Glove” if he and MJ had the greatest rivalry.

“No, I don’t think so, I think Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is the greatest rivalry ever in the NBA,” Payton said. “Me and Michael had battles. He played the East, and I played the West.”

Gary Payton, un viaje en la intimidad con MARCA: “Michael Jordan y yo teníamos batallas” marca.com/baloncesto/202… vía @marca 🏀 Fue un placer entrevistar a este hombre @GaryPayton. Un tío muy majo. Una de las mejores experiencias que he vivido. Vayan a leerlo! #NBA #NBAPlayoffs

Payton did acknowledge that his rivalry with Jordan was a must-see. Payton explained that their clash pitted the best offensive player against the best defensive player at the time. It should be noted that Payton and Jordan are two of only three guards to win the ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ award.

“Whenever we got together, everybody would like to see that,” Payton said. “They knew I was the top defensive player, and he was the top offensive player. They wanted to see a challenge. It was great for me and great for him. He had a ball doing it, and I had a ball doing it.”

Jordan and Payton played against each other 21 times, including six times in the playoffs. Jordan bested Payton 14 times in these meetings, including four in the 1996 Finals.


Michael Jordan laughed at Gary Payton in ‘The Last Dance’

Michael Jordan at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game
Michael Jordan at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game

In Episode 8 of “The Last Dance” documentary in 2022, Michael Jordan had a memorable reaction to Gary Payton. Jordan watched and laughed as Payton commented about locking him up during the final three games of the 1996 Finals.

“A lot of people backed down to Mike, I didn’t,” Payton said. “I made it a point, I said, ‘Tire him out. Tire the f**k out of him. You just gotta tire him out.’ And I kept hitting him and banging him and hitting him and banging him; it took a toll on Mike.”

Even though Jordan laughed at Payton’s comments, he did have a tough time against the latter. According to CBS Sports, Payton made Jordan’s life hell in Games 4, 5 and 6 in the Finals that year. The Chicago Bulls were up 3-0 when Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl put his best defender on Jordan.

The results were astonishing. Jordan averaged just 23.7 points on 36.7% shooting against Payton in the final three games. He averaged 32.1 points on 47.6 percent shooting in the first 15 games of the 1996 playoffs.

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Seattle won Games 4 and 5 but went cold in Game 6.






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