When Michael Jordan’s 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” came out last year, countless viral moments from the series captured the attention of everyone in the sports world. One of the most talked about scene’s from the documentary was His Airness laughing off some statements made by Gary Payton.
During episode eight of the series highlighting Chicago’s dynastic era, Payton discussed what it was like guarding Jordan in the 1996 NBA Finals. The former Seattle Supersonics star said he was able to “tire out” MJ and cause a “turning point” in the series.
To Jordan, this claim was laughable. The episode showed the all-time great cackling as he watched the video of Payton’s story.
— ESPN (@espn) May 11, 2020
While this reaction was certainly disrespectful to the Hall of Fame point guard, Payton didn’t take it personally. In a recent Bleacher Report “Ask Me Anything” Q&A, The Glove finally broke his silence on the viral Jordan reaction:
“It’s like this to me,” Payton explained. “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. 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.”
While Jordan clearly didn’t think so, Payton’s defensive efforts in that 1996 series had a noticeable effect. After starting the series down 3-0 to the Bulls, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year switched onto Jordan in game four. After the changeup, the Sonics were able to win two straight games and narrow the lead to 3-2.
In Game 6, the greatness of MJ and his stacked Bulls squad were just too much to handle. Behind a series-high 27.3 points per game for Jordan, Chicago claimed yet another NBA title.