As the famous cliche says, “all’s fair in love and war.” While pro sports aren’t specifically mentioned there, the same general rules apply to NBA players. When you’re faced with a must-win situation, trash talk is a common way to try and gain a slight advantage over the opposition. During his time on the hardwood, Gary Payton certainly understood that reality.
While the Glove may know a thing or two about trash talk, he wasn’t the only one who was able to dish it out. In fact, during a recent appearance on the Old Man and the Three podcast, Payton even named his All-90s trash-talking team. As you might assume, that squad wouldn’t have any problem beating all comers.
Gary Payton named a Trash-Talking team headlined by Larry Bird and Michael Jordan
When former athletes make the rounds on the media circuit, they’ll usually field a few questions about the best players they ever faced and have to construct some type of ultimate roster. Gary Payton, however, was recently hit with a different hypothetical.
Given Payton’s competitive fire and verbal barbs, Tommy Alter asked the Glove to create an All-90s trash-talking squad. Unsurprisingly, he assembled quite the team.
“Yeah, I mean, me,” Payton began, donning his metaphorical general manager hat. “Reggie Miller. Larry Bird, he was just good … I only played against him for two years, but he was really, really good. MJ [Michael Jordan] used to give his little things underneath his breath.”
Those four inclusions all seem obvious, at least based on what we’ve heard over the years. Payton had no problem challenging anyone; Miller was happy to needle anyone who crossed his path, even Spike Lee. Larry Bird was a bit less cruel than some of the others but leaned into his own skill and told opponents exactly how he’d embarrass them. Michael Jordan, of course, has a competitive fire that still looms large in popular culture.
Payton’s fifth inclusion, however, may be a bit less obvious.
“People don’t really understand Chuck Person was a cold one, too,” he continued. “He used to talk a lot of trash. The Rifleman … So, you know, us five, we’d have been something else if we’d have been teaming up together, talking a lot of trash, man. We’d have had everybody discombobulated, man. I’m telling you, man, we’d have done a good job.”
It’s safe to say that team would dominate the competition, with or without trash talk
As Payton himself noted, that squad would have no problem getting inside of their opponents’ collective heads. With that being said, though, they probably wouldn’t even need it to dominate the competition.
Should those five men take the floor together, Payton would have to slot in at the point guard. Jordan would presumably partner with him in the backcourt, with Person, Bird, and Miller all playing as stretch forwards. On the offensive end of the floor, it’s easy to see how everything would click.
Beyond the raw talent — all five men are capable of scoring — opposing defenses would be unable to provide any help due to Bird, Person, and Miller spacing the floor. If Payton or Jordan managed to beat their man on the perimeter, it would almost guarantee an easy lay-up; rotating into the paint would set up a wide-open three for one of the three forwards.
While the lineup could theoretically struggle on defense due to the lack of a true interior presence, they could probably still manage. Payton was renowned as a tough on-ball defender, so he’d play a key role in slowing down opposing offenses. Jordan could also hold his own on the perimeter, and Reggie Miller knew a thing or two about annoying an elite opponent.
That would have left Bird and Person to hold down the paint. The duo would be a bit undersized, but, at the end of his career, the Rifleman did become known as somewhat of a stopper (h/t NBA.com). Would they have been able to handle someone like Shaquille O’Neal? Of course not, but they could probably tread water against an average player, especially with a bit of rotational help.
Does Payton’s squad have some flaws? Yes, but seeing his All-90s trash-talk team hit the floor would have certainly been worth the price of admission.