Gary Payton is one of the best point guards in NBA history, but what added vastly to his career and legacy was his trash-talking prowess and fearlessness of going toe to toe with anybody. Even if it was Michael Jordan on the other side. It created a heated rivalry between the two, and it's obvious GP still feels a certain way about MJ.
Not making the list
From the two going up against each other in the 1996 Finals and guarding each other to MJ notoriously laughing at GP many years later in The Last Dance documentary, the relationship between Payton and Jordan has always been a bit tense.
Jordan was the king of the NBA and confidence, while Payton didn't shy away from going to the max verbally and physically. The two were meant to clash. So when Gary Payton was asked years ago about who his three best players of all time were, it was no surprise MJ was not on the list.
"My top three? Imma go with Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Bill Russell."
Gary Payton, The Universe Galaxy NBA
Naturally, the people around him would wonder where the consensus greatest basketball player of all time is on his list, but Payton would defend his answer by saying he likes the old-school players more. But everybody knew it was much deeper than that.
The pride and ego couldn't let him include his most fierce rival in his top three, and that is someone I can understand. GP saw first-hand how great Jordan was, and he knows he has a place on any top list, but his personal experience with MJ simply couldn't allow him to do that.
But considering Payton beefed with a lot of players in his era, it's no surprise that he put old-school guys like Wilt and Russell instead of more guys from his generation.