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Gary Payton explains why he believes John Stockton was harder to guard than Michael Jordan

Sep 8, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT

Gary Payton, John Stockton AP

Gary Payton made some waves earlier this week when he said that John Stockton was the hardest player he ever had to guard, and was a tougher matchup for him than even Michael Jordan.

Many recognize Jordan as one of the greatest of all time, of course, while Stockton is remembered as more of a pass-first point guard, given his place in history as the game’s all-time leader in assists. Stockton also is the career leader in steals, but to the casual fan, his game simply doesn’t resonate historically the way Jordan’s does.

Payton caught a lot of grief for his statement, but defended it at the beginning of his Hall of Fame induction speech in Springfield, Mass. on Sunday.

“Everyone’s been asking me why [Stockton] is the toughest person to guard instead of Michael Jordan,” Payton said. “First of all, it’s my opinion. So that’s the way it’s gonna go.”

That moment of defiance was followed by laughs and an applause break from the crowd, before Payton gave a more substantial reason behind his remark.

“[Stockton] is the only guy, when I got in the NBA and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be for the first two years, I watched him,” Payton said. “And when I watched him, he’s a player that all kids should watch right now. I might have been more athletic than he was, but he did it the same way every night. Every night.

“For him to only play 32 minutes, come in and shoot the ball 12 times, make nine or 10 of them shots, shoot eight free throws and make seven of ’em, and then have 15 assists and four steals, that’s the reason why he’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. And that’s why I respect him very much.”

Stockton, along with George Gervin, was on stage with Payton during the speech as one of his Hall of Fame presenters.

  1. trickybastard - Sep 8, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Very classy if the glove to say

  2. lhollis74 - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    I’m a Lakers fan and I’ve always felt Stockton never got all the credit he deserves! Because he refused to speak to the media, (go ahead, find a post game interview) they always made a point to not show him the respect he undoubtedly earned. He is the reason I realized the media play a big part in influencing what the casual fan thinks who the best players are and what their status in the game is. Stockton broke Magic Johnson’s career assist record, but how many people know that, and shouldn’t that have been a big deal? It was virtually glossed over because of his nonexistent relationship with reporters. There were several others who suffered a similar plight, like Kareem Abdul Jabbar ( muslim during the 60’s, musta been tuff,lol)who was also very bitter towards reporters, and Ron Harper who refused to do interviews after a couple reporters mocked him for his stuttering problem following a game that he performed well in.
    Bottom line, Stockton should have gotten more acclaim for his game even though his championship hopes were continually dashed by my beloved Lakers!

  3. macka4 - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    GP gives his reason. Pretty good. Kareem said Nate Thurmond (Walton next) was always his toughest defender, not Wilt or Moses. Thurmond was underrated his whole career, much like Stock.

  4. seahawksbmx - Sep 9, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    Epic battles back in the day between Payton/Stockton and Kemp/Malone. Congrats, GP!

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