Gary Payton said on several occasions that John Stockton was the hardest player he ever had to guard, even more so than Michael Jordan, with whom he battled it out on the world’s biggest stage, the 1996 NBA Finals. However, Supersonics legend says Stockton was a tougher matchup because he never let anything get to him, while MJ got rattled by his trash talk.
“Everyone’s been asking me why Stockton is the toughest person to guard instead of Michael Jordan. First of all, it’s my opinion. So that’s the way it’s gonna go.Gary Payton, via NBC Sports
In the interview Payton gave to NBC Sports, he was asked what it was like to guard Michael Jordan. Payton responded:
“Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me, it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say anything, and you couldn’t figure him out. He’d keep going in the pick and rolls, and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things.”Gary Payton, via NBC Sports
Payton says that any emotionally compromised player is worse than one who’s in control, even Jordan. At the beginning of his Hall of Fame introduction speech, Payton said that John Stockton inspired him the most and learned the most from him throughout his career.
“Stockton is the only guy when I got in the NBA, and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be for the first two years, I watched him. And when I watched him, he’s a player that all kids should watch right now. I might have been more athletic than he was, but he did it the same way every night. Every night.Gary Payton, via NBC Sports
Payton believes it’s Stockton’s efficiency and ability to do several things on the basketball court that made him stand apart from other NBA players at that time. Stockton was the ultimate floor general that knew how to play the game the right way, and his efficiency was truly remarkable because it lasted throughout his entire career.
“For him to only play 32 minutes, come in and shoot the ball 12 times, make nine or 10 of the shots, shoot eight free throws and make seven of them, and then have 15 assists and four steals, that’s the reason why he’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. And that’s why I respect him very much.”Gary Payton, via NBC Sports
John Stockton spent his entire professional career playing as a point guard for the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association (NBA), from 1984 to 2003. Stockton is regarded as one of the best point guards of all time, holding the NBA records for most career assists and steals by considerable margins. On top of that he built a