Skip to content

Gary Payton says John Stockton was harder to guard than Michael Jordan

Sep 2, 2013, 10:30 PM EDT

Gary Payton Getty Images

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Gary Payton in the week ahead, as he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2013 class on Sunday. And given his place in the game, his comments about those he played against are worth looking at a little more closely.

We all know who the best players are in any given era; personal biases aside, it’s usually fairly clear who the transcendent players are. (It’s LeBron James over everyone right now, in case you were wondering.)

While no one doubts the impact that Michael Jordan had during his playing days, individual matchups with other players can be far less black and white.

And that’s why Payton saying that it was John Stockton, and not Jordan who he had the toughest time defending isn’t as controversial as it may seem on the surface.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Q: Did John Stockton ever talk trash back to you?

A: “Never. That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he’d just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over. There was much respect to him doing that to me. It taught me a lot.”

Q: You say Stockton was the hardest to guard, but what about guarding Michael Jordan?

A: “Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say nothing and you couldn’t figure him out. He’d keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things.”

Payton is a player that, like Jordan, used trash talk to his advantage. He was energized by the challenge of besting an opponent, and always sought that external motivation to reach his highest levels of play.

The fact that Stockton wouldn’t give it to him, while playing at a Hall of Fame level himself, makes Payton’s remarks easy to understand.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Sacramento consultant Chris Mullin to take St. John’s head coaching job

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Chris Mullin AP

    There were rumors he wanted the Sacramento GM job, but George Karl has the power there now.

  2. PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Cream rising to top as playoffs near

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili

    The top three are Golden State, Cleveland and San Antonio. Would you be shocked if any of them won the title?

  3. Knicks are bad everywhere, fire D-League coach

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT

    Foot Locker Three-Point Contest Getty Images

    Phil Jackson disciple Craig Hodges now coaching Westchester Knicks

  4. Michael Jordan played first Bulls "home" game at a high school (video)

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT

    Michael Jordan, Dean Smith Michael Jordan, Dean Smith

    Jordan made preseason debut at Washington High School, but at one point, it seemed Washington High alum Junior Bridgeman would be the big draw

  5. Russell Westbrook dunks on teammate Enes Kanter

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:11 PM EDT

    Russell Westbtook, Enes Kanter Russell Westbtook, Enes Kanter

    D.J. Augustin throws the alley-oop, and two Thunder players go for it. Westbrook won.

  6. Texas’ Myles Turner, a likely lottery pick, declares for NBA draft with YouTube video

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:33 AM EDT

    Texas v Butler Getty Images

    Good decision to go pro, poor decision to end video how he did

  7. Blake Griffin makes 180 block (video)

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Blake Griffin, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder Blake Griffin, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder

    Jonas Jerebko thought his pump fake worked, but…

  8. Report: Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter declaring for NBA draft

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT

    R.J. Hunter R.J. Hunter

    Hunter hit biggest shot of NCAA tournament, backed it up with strong junior season

  9. Report: Kings advisor Chris Mullin expected to become St. John’s coach

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:08 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Mullin has played prominent role in Vivek Ranadivé’s organization

  10. Breaking down Western Conference playoff chase with two weeks left in season

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Golden State Warriors Detroit Pistons v Golden State Warriors

    The first and eight seeds are fairly set, after that the West is a jumbled mess.

  11. Breaking down Eastern Conference playoff chase with two weeks left in season

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    The race for the eighth seed could go down to the final night.

  12. Report: Magic plan to give GM Rob Hennigan a contract extension

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT

    Orlando Magic fire head coach Jacque Vaughn Orlando Magic fire head coach Jacque Vaughn

    Hennigan has done a solid job with the rebuild in his first three seasons.

Featured video

Where does Steve Nash rank all-time?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (6255)
  2. K. Lowry (6135)
  3. H. Whiteside (6031)
  4. K. Martin (6004)
  5. G. Monroe (5687)
  1. R. Rubio (5460)
  2. D. Rose (5425)
  3. B. Knight (5425)
  4. P. George (5244)
  5. L. Aldridge (5201)