Gary Payton recently answered all the big questions fans wanted to ask him for the past couple of years, revealing plenty of the things he lived during his NBA career, how he feels about the current state of the league, and even more.
The Seattle Supersonics legend recently joined an AMA session with Bleacher Report and he delivered some good takes during his intervention. He talked about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and even the players that most resemble his game nowadays. Payton retired as a one-time NBA champion but he earned a lot of honors during his career, being considered one of the best players in the 90s as well as one the greatest defenders ever.
Talking about Jordan, he said he understood why His Airness laughed at his claim that he tired the player during the 1996 NBA Final, even saying that he would do the same if he had his own documentary. Last year, he said he was mad about it, but things have changed.
It's like this to me. 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.
Moreover, he talked about the best trash-talkers he ever faced, picking himself as the greatest of all but giving credit to Jordan, Bird, Reggie Miller, and even Rasheed Wallace.
Basically Larry Bird was really marvelous. Reggie Miller could do it a lot, Michael would do a lot of things too but you really had to get him going. But the greatest one is me. Rasheed Wallace was good but he was doing it at the refs.
Talking about legends, he was asked to pick his all-time starting five. The Glove said that he didn't like to do that since only five spots are too short for all the players he loved to see playing.
I don't like to pick starting 5's because it's all about suggestions. I got a couple. The only person I'd put at the 1 is Stockton. Magic at the 2. Michael at the 3. Wilt at the 5. I like Bird and Kareem but then I'm leaving guys out like LeBron. That's why I don't like about picking a starting 5.
Payton also talked about the late Kobe Bryant, whom he played with on the Lakers. He explained that he had to be Kobe's big brother when he was accused of rape by a 19-year-old.
I caught Kobe when he was going through a lot with what happened in Denver. I got a chance to be his big brother. I got to know him as Kobe and not as what people were talking about with what him and Shaq were doing. Shaq is my brother and I love him to death. That's the reason I went to the Lakers. To get to know Kobe the way I did was a pleasure. I hate that he's gone and I hate that he's not here. I miss him so much and talking to him and my kids talking to him. I love him because he's a warrior too. He wanted things on his own and he wanted to do things on his own. When he decided to go and say he wanted the team on his own I said congratulations, beautiful. That's what you're supposed to do if you want to be a great and he was a great. He didn't act like he was bigger than anyone. He asked me questions all the time and I gave him answers. It was my duty to tell him the right way to do things and it was a pleasure for me to be in his life and know him the way I did for the forty years he was on this Earth.
Payton really lived a lot of things during his career and met a lot of good people during his journey. He must have a lot of stories to tell and these were just a few of them. If you want to see the rest of the question, go check the full AMA transcription on B/R.