How Michael Jordan Pissed off Gary Payton

The recent airing of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary series that followed Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls for the 1997-98 season has brought back plenty of feedback. There has been much on both ends centering around Jordan‘s involvement and perspective of his NBA career and various opponents. It has provided an inter look at what formed the player he was during his illustrious career. However, one moment pissed off fellow Hall of Famer Gary Payton regarding his former colleague.

1996 NBA Finals

In his first full season back, Michael Jordan helped guide the Bulls toward a then-NBA record 72 regular-season wins.

That saw them cruised through the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs, winning 11 of their 12 games played capped by sweeping the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls kept that momentum going in the NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics winning the first three games of the series.

The Supersonics responded by grabbing Games 4 and 5 but fell short in Game 6 on the road. Although Chicago were always in control of the series, Seattle did pose somewhat of a challenge. However, it was one reaction that Jordan made that didn’t rub a fellow Hall of Famer the right way.

Why Gary Payton was pissed at Michael Jordan

There were many revealing moments along the way in the documentary that showed another side to Michael Jordan. One of those was his reaction to Gary Payton voicing that he was giving Jordan fits defensively in the 1996 NBA Finals and that the series would have been different if he guarded him earlier.

Jordan’s response saw him express surprise and laughter at Payton’s statements regarding that situation. It didn’t take long for the former Seattle Supersonic’s great to fire back as he was pissed off at how Jordan reacted to his comments, but at the same time didn’t expect anything less from him. (H/T Yahoo Sports)

You know I was hot. I was thinking about calling him at the time. I’d be like, “Yo, OK, now you want to hindsight and lie in front of everybody? Alright. It’s all good,” I’d say.

But you know what, that’s what I expect out of Mike. Because I would’ve said the same thing. I would’ve said the same thing. You know me, B. I’m not going to admit to nothing, man. I’m not going admit to somebody that D’d me up or did nothing. I’ll always tell you that any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person, and that’s John Stockton to me. So, that is just the way the game goes.

I’m not mad at Mike, because Mike didn’t have too many games that nobody D’d him up. He always was dominant. I’m glad he said that, because I wouldn’t expect nothing else from him. I wouldn’t expect nothing else from Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. That’s why we’re talking about it.

How Jordan responded could have easily been deemed as disrespect to Payton but he didn’t take it in that manner. He saw it as the former Bulls great airing out his supreme confidence in his ability. Not many other players would have taken it in that manner, but Payton did.

Michael Jordan’s unwithering confidence


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The Last Dance documentary showcased more than anything else because Michael Jordan never lacked any confidence in his ability or how he approached the game.

It was part of what made him the player was and helped him achieve historic success. Jordan’s approach to the game and his outlook caused tension at times due to his competitive nature, but it wasn’t out of disrespect toward the game or his opponent.

If anything, The Lance Dance documentary only further underlined what made Jordan the player he was.