Payton: Rather guard MJ than Stockton

Published Sep. 3, 2013 1:00 a.m. ET

Unless you've been living under a rock this week, you heard about FOX Sports Live analyst Gary Payton claiming John Stockton was harder to guard than Michael Jordan.

Yes, he really said that, following his controversial comments about leaving Jordan out of his top three of all time. And before you start using expletives to describe the Hall of Fame inductee's opinion, check out what he had to say to Yahoo! Sports:

"Those (Jordan) battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really 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 nothing 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."

Payton went into more depth on FOX Sports Live:

Really, Gary? More fundamentally sound than Jordan? OK ... everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how blasphemous, I guess.

This is the thing that has me scratching my head, though.

Payton, who is known as one of the biggest trash talkers to ever hold the rock, didn't have issues doing his thing against Stockton and the Jazz in the 1996 Western Conference Finals. Stockton was held to 9.8 points and 39 percent shooting. Doesn't sound like a headache for Payton.


When the Supersonics faced the Bulls in the Finals that year, Jordan shot 45 percent and averaged 27.3 points.

Payton was guarding Jordan, and yes, MJ's scoring was down from his career Finals average (36.3 points), but those were numbers good enough to give Jordan Finals MVP honors.

C'mon man. The numbers don't lie. Payton was left ring-less in his prime not by Stockton's game, but Jordan's.

Stockton didn't push Payton to the limit the way Jordan did, when it counted at least. So what's the real reason he dissed the G.O.A.T's game like that?

The way Payton talks trash, I wouldn't be surprised if he was just saying that to get under MJ's skin and get a response out of him.

But it's Jordan. Cigar-smoking, hot-wife gloating Jordan. You won't see him giving Payton's opinion any attention on Twitter, 'cause he's not on it. And he already had his "take that" moment in his Hall of Fame speech; Payton will get his chance in his speech on Saturday.

The simple solution to this budding feud is a 1-on-1 street ball competition between 50-year-old Jordan and 45-year-old Payton. Let's just set the damn game up already and be done with this. But watch out, GP — we already know Jordan still can dunk.

Follow Nick Creegan on Twitter