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#pounditTuesday, October 19, 2021

Gary Payton had great response to Michael Jordan ‘The Last Dance’ reaction

Gary Payton

One of the more memorable moments of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary was Michael Jordan laughing at a confident Gary Payton’s recollection of the 1996 NBA Finals. Now, Payton has finally had the chance to respond.

The Chicago Bulls famously jumped out to a 3-0 Finals lead on Payton’s Seattle SuperSonics in 1996, with Payton kept off Jordan defensively to try to keep him fresh on offense. The Sonics won two in a row after Payton took over guarding Jordan, but ended up losing in six games. In the documentary, Payton said he had taken a toll on Jordan and wished he had moved over to guard him sooner. Jordan’s response to Payton spawned one of the documentary’s more memorable memes.

When asked about Jordan’s laughter in a Bleacher Report AMA, Payton said he’d do the same thing.

“He wouldn’t be Michael Jordan if he would have bowed down there,” Payton wrote. “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. …

“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 hahaha.”

In a way, Payton is demonstrating what made both him and Jordan great — mutual respect, but an unbreaking belief that each would get the better of the other.

It’s neat to see Payton taking it like he did. Some rivals featured in the documentary were caught a bit off-guard by Jordan’s reaction to them, but not Payton.

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