Gary Payton felt he slowed down Michael Jordan in 1996 NBA Finals

In his prime, Gary Payton was one of the NBA’s best defenders. Payton had won the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s fourth all-time in steals. He was on the All-Defensive team nine times during his 17-year career.

But some players, when they’re truly at their best, just cannot be stopped. Michael Jordan was one of those players.

Payton and Jordan made for a comical segment Sunday during Episode 8 of “The Last Dance,” the documentary that’s capturing the attention of sports fans.

The 1996 Chicago Bulls were playing the Seattle SuperSonics in that year’s NBA Finals. Payton and Shawn Kemp led Seattle, and despite starting the series down 3-0, the Sonics won Game 4 and Game 5. Payton felt his defense on Jordan was a factor in the series.

“A lot of people backed down to Mike,” Payton said on the episode, per ESPN. “I didn’t. I made it a point. I said, ‘just tire him out. Tire the (expletive) out of him. You just gotta tire him out.’ And I kept hitting him and banging him and hitting and banging him. It took a toll on Mike.”

Jordan laughed at Payton thinking he was slowing him down. Later in the clip, Jordan made it clear that Payton’s defense didn’t affect him.

“The Glove,” Jordan said. “I had no problem with The Glove.”

Perhaps Jordan was relatively contained in Game 4, when he scored 23 points and shot 31.6% from the field in the Bulls’ 107-86 loss. Jordan scored 22 points and shot 26.3% from the field in Game 6, but the Bulls still won 87-75 to earn their fourth championship in six years.

Jordan averaged 27.3 points per game and shot 41.5% from the field in that Finals. He grabbed 5.3 rebounds a game and dished 4.2 assists.

Though he had two average games by his standards, Jordan and his Bulls were too good that season — they weren’t going to lose to anyone.

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