Michael Jordan is one such player who has given many rookies their ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moments. Former Seattle SuperSonics guard Gary Payton happens to be one of them.
Michael Jordan is one of the biggest names in the sporting world. Jordan is easily one of the greatest players the league has ever witnessed. Apart from being one of the most impactful players, the Chicago Bulls guard was considered a basketball god. Till today, fans rave about his insane gameplay and achievements.
Looking at the illustrious resume he built over 1,072 games, it is understandable why he is widely regarded as the GOAT. Michael has 14 All-Star appearances, 10 Scoring titles, 11 All-NBA selections, 6 NBA championships, 6 Finals MVP and 5 league MVPs under his belt.
His Airness was pretty unstoppable during his era. Even the best of the best defenders were unable to prevent him from getting buckets at will. However, entering the league in 1990, as a young 22-year-old, Gary Payton believed he had what it took to stop Air Jordan.
“Michael Jordan had 33 points that match and I finished with 0”: Gary Payton
Like many other players MJ has humbled, Payton too learnt to not talk trash with Mike the hard way. During an interview with “The Players’ Tribune”, GP narrated:
“I’m coming in there, preseason, second pick in the draft. I don’t care who the hell Michael Jordan is. I’d seen him when I was coming up. To me it was like, O.K., he’s good … but he’s not all that.
MJ was on the bench most of the game. So B.J. Armstrong had me. I gave him 19 points. And I’m a rookie, so of course I’m talking crazy. I’m talking sh*t to B.J, I’m running by the bench, saying sh*t to MJ. I’m staring guys down. I feel great.
A few weeks later, we had the Bulls for the first time in the regular season, at home in Seattle. I’ve been working for it, waiting for it, I’m ready. I’m like, “O.K. I gave them 19. I know I can get down on MJ, no problem.
So we go out there before the game, and everybody is shaking hands at the circle. MJ wouldn’t shake my hand. He turns to B.J. and he says, “Leave the f*cking rookie to me,” so everyone can hear it.
“Sh*t, O.K., I’m thinking. Well f*ck it then. Bring it on.” The game gets going. I’m checking Michael, and I see Phil Jackson start calling plays — four, five, six times in a row, he’s calling plays for Michael. And Michael is scoring four, five, six times in a row. Michael is on a different level than I knew there was.”
In a matter of minutes, I’m in foul trouble. K.C. benches me. I didn’t really go back in the game much more after that. I remember I finished with no points — played about seven or eight minutes. MJ ended up going for 33.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Near the end of the game, I’m sitting on the bench, and MJ comes over to our bench — comes right up to me while the game is still going on. Coach is standing right there. Everyone on the bench is staring at him.
Looks right at me. “That sh*t you talking in preseason?” The wild thing is, MJ isn’t even mad or nothing. He’s chewing his f*cking gum. “This is the real sh*t right here. Welcome to the NBA, little fella.”
The Bulls won the title that season, and then five more before he was done.”