As a kid, Eddie Murphy and his brother Charles had to live in foster care for a year while their mother was recovering from an illness. The lady taking care of them had a short fuse and would discipline them physically, so Eddie found a way to “get out of a whoppin’.” He would make her laugh. Murphy credits that year for developing his sense of humor and ability to make people laugh. Gary Payton has a similar origin story.
Payton is one of those guys who seem like they were trash-talking in kindergarten. A kid tried to take his toy, and little Gary just went off on him. Payton didn’t back down from anybody on the court, and he wanted to go at the best guy. That’s because Payton’s father had a simple rule.
“The way I grew up, I had a pop, he’s a cold dude. They called him Mr. Mean. We always had to back up the trash talk, anyone, my brothers or sisters, because my pops always used to say: ‘If you trash talk, and you can’t back it up, you come home and you a whoop? Imma’ whoop you too.‘ That’s what made me so tough.”Gary Payton, The Uninterrupted
Payton’s math was simple. It was easier to talk the talk and walk the walk on the playgrounds than come and face the music at home. The guys he played against would respect him more, and he wouldn’t have to listen to his dad trash-talking his trash talk.
So even when he came to the NBA, no player would intimidate Payton to the point he wouldn’t go at him. Backing down on the court was trash-talked out of him as a possibility. When The Glove went up against MJ the first time, he immediately made it know there was no fear, and the league took notice. That young kid went right at the GOAT:
“He would have to guard me, as much as I had to guard him. It was like one of them dudes at the playground. You the man? I’m the man too. Michael would talk back to you, but if he got you punked, he’d go at you more. ‘You can’t guard me, you know who I am? Black Jesus,‘ he’d say something like that.
Youknow what I said? ‘Fu** you, Imma get in yo ass every time I come and play.‘”Gary Payton, The Uninterrupted
Jordan told him he was crazy, and Payton said to him he was right and that he is going to stay crazy. That’s why Payton was one of the best defenders ever, despite the fact he was often athletically outgunned. A lot of guys from that era name him as the toughest matchup on the calendar precisely because of his ferocious attitude and trash talk, with one crucial detail. Thanks to his dad, Payton would always back his talk with actions.