Skip to main content

"It was a mistake. It was something I should've done earlier"

Jordan-Payton

Over the first three games of the '96 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan averaged 31 points on 46 percent from the field. He tortured Seattle's wing defenders, utilizing his size against Hersey Hawkins and his quickness against Detlef Schrempf, as the Bulls took a commanding 3-0 series lead.

So with the series slipping through his fingers, in an attempt to at least postpone Chicago's celebration, George Karl put Gary Payton on His Airness. This was a last resort type of adjustment, and something Karl hadn't experimented with ever before. But it worked. So much that today, not doing it sooner may as well be one of Karl's biggest regrets.

My feeling is it was a mistake. I don't know if it was a mistake that lost us the series, but it was something I should've done earlier. At least experimenting with it earlier.

George Karl, ">1-on-1 with Basketball Network

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

During The Last Dance, The Glove explained his approach when going up against MJ for that three-game stretch. "A lot of people backed down to Mike. I didn't. I made it a point; I said, 'just tire him out. Tire the f*** out of him. You've just gotta tire him out.' I just kept hitting him and banging him and hitting him and banging him, and it took a toll on Mike."

The get physical with him mentality bore fruit, as Payton held Jordan to 23.7 points on 36.7% shooting. And despite the SuperSonics losing the series in six, they won that little three-game stretch 2-1, meaning that 'putting Gary on Michael' experiment was a success.

One can only wonder how Seattle would’ve fared had Karl made that adjustment sooner, the same way one can wonder how the series would've been different had the SuperSonics not decided to fly home right after Game 2. Because arriving in Seattle around 5 am messed up the team's sleeping pattern, causing irreparable damage that would later swing a series, according to Karl, at least.

But I wouldn't say a flight was the factor that swung those Finals because the Sonics bounced back and won back to back games afterward. However, not having Payton on MJ for the entirety of the series might've been, and a three-game sample size proves it.

skip-bayless-lebron-james-bronny-james-min

Skip Bayless takes a dig at Bronny James' monster dunk: "Your dad would have done it better!"

It seems like Skip is planting seeds to hate on the next generation of LeBron James and his family.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Channing Frye

“Everyone loves this conversation, but stop it, because the things that you judge it by is never the same.” — Channing Frye hates the GOAT debate

Frye explains why Shaquille O'Neal's percieved value has depreciated over time because of the GOAT conversation.

Michigan State Spartans center Anthony Ianni and forward Draymond Green

Why ex-teammate Anthony Ianni calls his friendship with Draymond Green a blessing in disguise

A great story explaining why Draymond is beloved by teammates, despite his abrasive character.

Golden State Warriors head coach Keith Smart instructs point guard Stephen Curry

“He didn't believe that much in Steph and would bench him a lot” — Jeremy Lin opens up about the rocky relationship between Steph Curry and his former coach Keith Smart

During Steph's second year in the league, he was often yelled at, benched during the 4th quarter, and reprimanded by his former coach, Keith Smart.

Paul Westhead, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers

“When you try to reign in a 22-year-old elite athlete from pushing himself to be his best, you’re going to get conflict.” — Kareem weighs in on the Magic vs. Westhead issue

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walked down memory lane and shared his take on the issue between Magic Johnson and Paul Westhead back in the day.