He made the statement in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears that he felt that Stockton was harder to guard because it was difficult for him to figure out the former Utah Jazz point guard because he did not use trash talk where as his matchups against Jordan were not as challenging for him due to fact that Jordan did use trash talk.
“Those 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 caught a lot of flack for his stance because Jordan is regarded by many as one of the greatest to play the game and as one of the most difficult players to guard.At the start of his Hall of Fame induction speech in Springfield, Mass. on Sunday, Payton made it a priority to defend his position.
““Everyone’s been asking me why [Stockton] is the toughest person to guard instead of Michael Jordan,” Payton said. “First of all, it’s my opinion. So that’s the way it’s gonna go.”
After he made that statement, Payton received many laughs and an applause which he followed with more reasoning behind his decision to choose Stockton over Jordan.
““[Stockton] is the only guy, when I got in the NBA and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be for the first two years, I watched him,” Payton said. “And when I watched him, he’s a player that all kids should watch right now. I might have been more athletic than he was, but he did it the same way every night. Every night.
“For him to only play 32 minutes, come in and shoot the ball 12 times, make nine or 10 of them shots, shoot eight free throws and make seven of ‘em, and then have 15 assists and four steals, that’s the reason why he’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. And that’s why I respect him very much.”
He may be in the minority when choosing a player other than Jordan as the hardest to guard but ultimately it is Payton’s opinion. Rather than being criticized for his position, it should be a respected stance as he was a gritty defender that was selected to nine consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Team (1994–2002) and earned the nickname “The Glove” because of his defensive skills.
Defense was Payton’s forte so if he believes that Stockton was the most difficult player to guard than it should be left at that. There is no need to cause a ruckus over his decision.
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