Gary Payton seemed to uncharacteristically pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan as his GOAT, before clarifying his stance on the subject.
Now, the GOAT debate has been beaten to death by fans from every spectrum. It still continues to make the cut for podcast interviews because it’s something everyone has an opinion on.
Gary Payton is more qualified than most people to give an opinion, having faced both players. He tips LeBron on Scoop Robinson’s podcast as the better all-round player with the predictable accompanying arguments:
“Two different basketball players. Jordan was a guy who, he’s going to make big shots, he’s going to take the ball every time and shoot it every time he has to. I think LeBron is an all-around basketball player.”
Gary Payton declares LeBron James is ‘by far’ better all-around player than Michael Jordan: https://t.co/ebzvI7cGCa
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) April 19, 2021
“If you asked me, ‘Who’s the better all-around basketball player?’ LeBron James by far. He does everything, he passes the ball better than Jordan.”
“He can dribble it, I think, a little bit better than Jordan … shooting-wise, I don’t think so. Rebounding I think he did, but Jordan did rebound. But they’re two different basketball players.”
Gary Payton responds to Michael Jordan ribbing him in ‘The Last Dance’
The Sonics guard was arguably the one player who defended MJ better than anybody in that era. Payton was switched on to MJ 3 games into the 1996 NBA Finals, and it resulted in Seattle rattling off 2 consecutive Ws.
However, Jordan led all scorers in Game 6 to put the series beyond their reach on Father’s Day 1996. He celebrated his 4th championship by breaking down and dedicating his victory to his late father.
Payton has a few more anecdotes to add to the Michael Jordan collection:
“It’s like this to me. He wouldn’t be Michael Jordan if he would have bowed down there. Everybody knows about his competitiveness. He was a guy who came every night to play.”
“I respect him for that because I came every night to play. I was never gonna back down to him and he knew that. If it was my documentary and they asked me the same thing I would have laughed too and been like ‘no he couldn’t go at me neither.’”
“Every night I played Michael Jordan he brought the best out of me. Wish I could have started off on him in the championship and it would have been better, but their team was better than mine at the time and they won it all. He did a documentary, he felt the way he felt. What I can do is I can say the same thing hahah.”