Gary Payton was a part of the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team and the guard is widely considered one of the best defenders of all time. The Glove was a force from the time he entered the league, taking on all comers and leading his Seattle Supersonics to an NBA Finals in 1996.
GP and his team lost in those finals against none other than Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, even though Payton says he was never afraid of Jordan. Jordan had returned after his hiatus to try his hand at baseball and the Sonics fell victim to His Airness and the Bulls as they completed their quest to reassert their dominance over the NBA.
The matchup between the two was hyped up massively considering Payton's stifling defense on opposing guards but MJ did enough to see his Bulls clinch their 4th championship. That wasn't the first time Jordan had gotten the better of GP either, he also gave the Sonics man his 'Welcome to the NBA' moment, as Payton explained in an interview with The Player's Tribune.
“I’m coming in there, preseason, second pick in the draft. I don’t care who the hell Michael Jordan is. I’d seen him when I was coming up. To me it was like, O.K., he’s good … but he’s not all that.
"MJ was on the bench most of the game. So B.J. Armstrong had me. I gave him 19 points. And I’m a rookie, so of course I’m talking crazy. I’m talking sh*t to B.J, I’m running by the bench, saying sh*t to MJ. I’m staring guys down. I feel great.
"A few weeks later, we had the Bulls for the first time in the regular season, at home in Seattle. So we go out there before the game, and everybody is shaking hands at the circle. MJ wouldn’t shake my hand. He turns to B.J. and he says, “Leave the f*cking rookie to me,” so everyone can hear it.
“'Sh*t, O.K., I’m thinking. Well f*ck it then. Bring it on.' The game gets going. I’m checking Michael, and I see Phil Jackson start calling plays — four, five, six times in a row, he’s calling plays for Michael. And Michael is scoring four, five, six times in a row. Michael is on a different level than I knew there was.
"In a matter of minutes, I’m in foul trouble. K.C. benches me. I didn’t really go back in the game much more after that. I remember I finished with no points — played about seven or eight minutes. MJ ended up going for 33.
"But that wasn’t the end of it. Near the end of the game, I’m sitting on the bench, and MJ comes over to our bench — comes right up to me while the game is still going on. Coach is standing right there. Everyone on the bench is staring at him.
"Looks right at me. 'That sh*t you talking in preseason?' The wild thing is, MJ isn’t even mad or nothing. He’s chewing his f*cking gum. 'This is the real sh*t right here. Welcome to the NBA.'
Michael Jordan famously used every little thing he could to motivate him to be the best, so it's no surprise that a rookie Payton talking trash to him would lead to that sort of reaction from the Bulls legend. GP went on to become one of the greatest ever and had his moments against MJ, but stories like this provide an excellent example of what leads most people to pick Michael Jordan as the GOAT.