Not many players in NBA history can claim the distinction of having carried their franchise to the NBA Finals during their career. Gary Payton is one of the best players to have played the game of basketball and arguably the greatest defender ever as well. GP led his Seattle Supersonics to the finals in 1996, where they would go up against a returning Michael Jordan.
And while Jordan is widely considered to be the greatest of all time after he won another three-peat, at the time he was coming back from a nearly 2-year long stint away from basketball. Considering that Payton was a fierce competitor with a lot of talent himself, it's not surprising that he wasn't really in awe of MJ. At least, that's what he told DJ Vlad during a recent interview, addressing the battle between him and Jordan.
"I don't care about black Jesus, I don't care about none of that, You ain't gonna talk crazy or nothing. So, I took it as a challenge to always go against him, he brought everything out of me and they were always considering him the best offensive player and me the best defensive player at our positions. I didn't care about that, I'm not backing down. You play basketball just like I play basketball. I'm talented just like you talented. I don't bow down to nobody."
The 1996 finals ended in another triumph for Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls, who got to the top of the summit one more time after MJ's return. Payton started playing well a bit too late in the series, with his team falling behind 3-0 and being unable to recover despite picking up the next 2 games.
Gary Payton and Michael Jordan played one another on 21 occasions in the regular season as well as the playoffs and MJ managed to get the victory for his team 14 times in those contests. Jordan also averaged 29.1 points in those games, so while GP might not have been afraid of MJ, it would seem that going against The Glove was nothing Jordan himself couldn't handle either.