ESPN’s 10-part Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” featured plenty of memorable moment, including one unforgettable sequence involving Gary Payton.
In an episode detailing the 1996 NBA Finals between Jordan’s Bulls and Payton’s Seattle Supersonics, the loquacious point guard detailed how his head coach George Karl would not let him guard MJ early in the series. With Payton matched up on other Chicago players, the Bulls went out in front three games to none.
In Game 4, Payton convinced Karl to let him match up with Jordan. He did a solid job as Seattle won the next two games before the Bulls closed it out in six. In an interview for “The Last Dance,” Payton said he gave Jordan trouble and wondered what would have happened if he guarded His Airness from the start.
We all know how Jordan reacted to those comments: with pronounced laughter, saying he had no problem with “The Glove.” That Jordan response instantly became a meme, and apparently, pissed Payton off.
In an appearance on the Opinionated 7-Footers podcast with Ryan Hollins and Brendan Haywood, Payton says he was “hot” and nearly called MJ up to voice his displeasure. However, he ultimately just chalked it up to Jordan’s nature.
“Oh you know I was hot. I was thinking about calling him at the time. …But you know what, that’s what I expect out of Mike because I would’ve said the same thing. I would’ve said the same thing. You know me, B. I’m not gonna admit to nothing, man. I’m not gonna admit to somebody that D’d me up or did nothing.
“I’ll always tell you that any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person, and that’s John Stockton to me. That is just the way the game goes. I’m not mad at Mike because Mike didn’t have too many games that nobody D’d him up.”
Payton isn’t wrong here. Jordan isn’t going to admit, in his own personal documentary that he approved, that anyone got the better of him at any point.
What you have here is two hyper-competitive guys who went at it and are talking about it years later. We could listen to a lot more of this back-and-forth.