Gary Payton was known for two things during his 17-year NBA career: His defensive prowess — which earned him the nickname “The Glove” — and his legendary trash-talking ability. Both helped make Payton a Hall of Famer, as he used the latter skill to get into the heads of his opponents and frustrate them as much as he could, while still being able to back it up thanks to his on-court ability.
But when it comes to the ultimate king of talking trash, there’s only one name that everybody thinks of: Michael Jordan. And if anyone dared to go head-to-head with MJ by trying to run their mouth, he was going to make a mental note, find a reason for a vendetta against that guy, and then go out and embarrass the poor soul — he was that ruthless. It’s like the student trying to stand up to the professor; it always ends poorly for the student.
Well, that was a lesson that Gary Payton had to find out for himself, because, back in 1990 during Payton’s rookie season, he tried barking at Jordan during a preseason game — which wasn’t something the GOAT found too amusing. In fact, Jordan figured it’d be a good time to educate the young rook, and didn’t really say much of anything back, but, in true MJ fashion, absolutely obliterated Payton on the court, as the kid tried like hell to defend him.
Talking to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Gary Payton described the situation — and, as you might expect, it sounded brutal for him as he had an up-close view of what makes Michael Jordan the absolute best.
“I went at him in the preseason and he didn’t forget it,” Payton said of his first matchup with the Bulls superstar. “We played him for the first time in the regular season. He walked on the court, and I was talking mad, crazy. He only played like 8, 9, 10 minutes in the preseason game, and he went over and told B.J. Armstrong and Pippen, ‘I got the rook. I got him all night.’ He got me in foul trouble real quick. I sat down, he played like 10 minutes of the game, he had like 35 points. He walked over and said, ‘Young fella, preseason ain’t what’s happening. This is what’s up.’ It was like, welcome to the NBA and many more.” (While Jordan scored 33 points that night, in 27 minutes, Payton mustered just two. At least he made the only shot he took.)
With ESPN’s documentary on Jordan and his Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance, debuting on Sunday, April 19, we’ve had all sorts of classic MJ stories surface from players who went against the legend. From talking trash to teammates in practice to prep himself for the playoffs, to upstaging other players by showing off his fleet of Ferraris, to getting emotional during the filming of the movie when describing the cost of winning, there’s nobody who ever did it like Michael Jordan did it — so it’s no surprise that everyone’s itching to watch the 10-part series right now.
Jordan dominated every single player he went against, whether they had the balls to stand up to him or not, and, in Gary Payton’s case, he learned the hard way to never poke the bear, because the damn thing will eat your arm off. Yeah, it didn’t take much for Jordan to flip the switch as a cold-blooded assassin on the basketball court, but a chirping rookie was obviously something he didn’t find amusing.