Cover Image for “I had to guard John Stockton 94 feet”: Gary Payton enlists every reason why the Utah Jazz legend was a tougher defensive assignment than Michael Jordan

“I had to guard John Stockton 94 feet”: Gary Payton enlists every reason why the Utah Jazz legend was a tougher defensive assignment than Michael Jordan

Amulya Shekhar
|Wed Feb 16 2022


Gary Payton surprisingly names John Stockton as the hardest defensive assignment he’s ever had, over one Michael Jordan.

Gary Payton is probably the greatest defensive guard to ever play basketball. He’s certainly the only point guard to ever win Defensive Player of the Year honors, and there are a multitude of reasons for it.

When it comes to combining the mental game with the physical, Gary Payton is right up there with any player you can name. He would talk trash from the warmups and wouldn’t shut up till the team flight took off. And with that, he had a dogged determination in him that is rare to find.

Many call the Glove the best player to guard Michael Jordan. That’s because he had all-time lateral quickness, a strong 6’4″ body and he knew how to use it.

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Gary Payton describes exactly how much more taxing it was to guard John Stockton than Michael Jordan

Gary Payton was a guest on the popular VladTV YouTube channel recently. The Seattle SuperSonics legend spoke about all things basketball, and particularly in-depth about some fascinating battles from his playing days.

In one particular segment, Payton described how tough the John Stockton defensive assignment was. John Stockton has the enviable record for most assists and most steals, and much of his career overlapped with that of GP.

Payton described the challenge of guarding John Stockton thus:

“I gotta guard him 94 feet. I gotta think about coming off of picks, he’s throwing passes, he’s coming back trying to steal the basketball. He’s always moving, he’s taking charges on me, he’s doing a lot of things. I have to always focus on him.”

“He only played 34 minutes, that’s how much Jerry Sloan played him. And then when you look up, he’s shot the ball 10 times and he’s made 8. He’s shot 7 free throws and he made all 7. Next thing you know, you look up, he’s got 16 assists.”

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