Payton: Stockton’s Game Spoke Loudest


Any list of the NBA’s most notorious trash-talkers would be incomplete – wait, no, it would be an absolute, bleepin’ waste of time – if Gary Payton’s name weren’t atop it. In his Hall of Fame career with the Seattle SuperSonics (and four other clubs), white-hot and often profane on-court chatter was to Payton what long hair was to Samson, as much the source of his greatness as it was the soundtrack of his game.

But there’s more than one way to rattle an opponent. As Payton reflected on his NBA achievements and fast-approaching enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — he’ll join the Class of 2013 Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBA TV) at the ceremony in Springfield, Mass. — he saved his highest praise for a stone-faced rival who never engaged in much hardwood banter.

In 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz, point guard John Stockton didn’t need to move his lips when he read, whether situations, openings or opportunities.

“Never,” Payton said of Stockton in a Q&A interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he’d just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over.”

Payton reiterated in an interview with NBA TV’s Kevin Calabro that no matter how much he would talk to Stockton during games, the Utah point guard would go about his business as if nothing happened.

Payton said Stockton’s no-nonsense approach taught him a lot. It also prompted Payton to seek out the Hall of Famer as one of his two presenters for Sunday’s event — new inductees are presented by previously enshrined players or coaches, and Payton will be ushered in by Stockton and legendary NBA/ABA scorer George “Iceman” Gervin.

Payton made them sound like easy choices, telling Spears:

“George Gervin was my childhood idol since I was little. In Oakland I had all his posters on my wall. The Iceman poster where he was on ice blocks in that silver suit. He presented to all my other Hall of Fame stuff for retired jerseys at Oregon State and my high school. John Stockton is because I liked him when I was playing basketball. Everyone said he was dirty. He wasn’t as athletic as us. But he was smarter than us. We knew what he was going to do. We knew he was going to set [tough] picks. We had all the videos on Utah. We were so dumb. We would get caught up with the picks and get mad at him. He would shoot eight times and make nine. Shoot eight free throws and make seven. He’d have 15 assists and four steals. A complete game. That’s just the way he was and I idolized him…”

Payton idolized Stockton in his own way, of course, jabbering as if it was a natural part of inhaling and exhaling while building his reputation as one of the greatest two-way backcourt players in league history. HTB denizen Scott Howard-Cooper talked with Payton recently, too, and got the goods on how close the NBA and its fans came to missing out on his skills and his feistiness.

Spears touched on other topics, including this notion that, for Payton, guarding Stockton was tougher than facing Michael Jordan. (When Jordan reads this, he might ask to edit and re-give his famously competitive Springfield speech, to put Payton in his place):

“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, 45, shared other opinions, including his appreciation of Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams (“same mentality as me”) and Boston’s Rajon Rondo. “He can’t score like I did but he does everything else like I did,” said the nine-time All-Star and No. 2 pick in the 1990 draft.

He talked about Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers and about the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City, where Payton isn’t interested in having his No. 20 jersey retired to the rafters. That, he believes, should and will happen in Seattle.

“It will be there sooner or later,” Payton said. “It could be years. If I’m 70 and they get a team, hey, so be it. It will be great just as long as it will go up in Seattle.”

And the pesky, pain-in-the-rump playmaker known defensively as “The Glove” talked about his own induction speech. Too bad he won’t be making it as performance art — just imagine the entire speech given in trash-talk cadence and (ahem) vocabulary, challenging as that might be for the NBA TV producers.

Fact is, the guy whose patter could move some opponents nearly to tears might find himself on the other end of things, in that stage-light moment of memories, accomplishments and appreciative faces smiling back at him.

“Everybody wants to know if I’m going to cry,” Payton told Yahoo Sports. “You know what? I’m going to be real with you. I don’t think I’m going to cry. But I got to stay away from watching my mom because if she starts tearing up … That’s the hardest mama in the world to make cry. If she tears up and cries?

“I know Pops ain’t gonna tear up. If he does it, it’s just a bad thing. I’m just going to stay focused and look forward and try not to look anybody in their face.”

Should he need to, Payton can always glance across the stage. That’s where the guy with the stone face will be standing, a source of the edge with which Payton played and that he might need again to speechify.


  1. Lawrence says:

    GP was no slouch himself.

    You can check out this site to see GP’s stats:

  2. kobe_himself says:

    look, i’ll settle this.. Payton said Stockton is harder to guard.. BECAUSE he had to guard Stockton.. they are both point guard position

    Payton would not be guarding MJ. MJ is a shooting guard, bigger stronger… not a point guard. He aint bitter about nothing, you guys just dumb and thinking too much. Mj aint even that good, Kobe got more skills

  3. priadr says:

    John Stockton went to the playoffs every year of his career. That is pretty impressive.

  4. To all those that are saying they don’t under stand why The Glove’s giving props to Stockton being the hardest for him to guard are knuckleheads who have the slightest idea of what bball is all about. The man’s telling us because he’s been there & as prolific as a defender he is-Stockton was the hardest pg to defend-i remember watching them match up reg seas & playoffs. Stockton has one of the if not the highest pg iq’s in the game ever & yes he was very athletic-if not how could he get to the paint whenever he wanted to. Remember, true pg’s run the offense & Stockton was very prolific @ it as was The Glove. If not for the “90’s Bulls 2nd 3peat, The Glove’s Sonics would have def had a ring & Stockton’s Jazz would’ve had 2 because their perspective teams would have beat anybody else from the east in the finals @ that time.

  5. GP-aka The Glove. Congrats on the HOF & many years of lockn down defense-fun to watch & a pleasure seeing a pg play defense the way a pg should play D. Also congrats to the original King-Bernard King on making the HOF-long past due.

  6. Parker says:

    If you played PG before then you would understand GP’s point in saying why JS is the hardest person for him to guard. A PG position is to run the team and to out think and disrupt the other teams plans. GP lost to the Bull because they had a great team and of course the goat. Think about this though, I’m losing to another team who’s less athletic than us and i know what they are going to run. Now! tell me which one would bother you when you lay your head down at night.

  7. Kit says:

    Stockton has be one of the most underrated players ever. Was there ever another player accomplished SO MUCH and absolutely owned their position, yet was constantly overlooked for louder, flashier players? And yes, I know he didn’t get the championship, a stat we often overvalue at the expense of objective evaluation of a player’s talent. See: Robert Horry.

    The only one I can think of who even slightly compares is Tim Duncan: a fantastic, but very quiet player. But even Duncan still gets lots of credit from his peers, the media, and the fans.

  8. WTF is wrong with these fantards of Jordan? says:

    Okay First of all I’m sick!! of these Jordan Fantards here the’re comments are just plain ignorance, Payton said that Stockton is FOR HIM the hardest to guard is that hard to accept? and just because he said that doesn’t mean he is butthurt about 1996 and FYI he has a ring!! so please stop with your fantardism and accept what the guys said He played with these guys and he knows better than any of us.

  9. Bmore says:


    I love this game

  10. f burnette says:

    Stocton was harder to guard because he used everything against you. Jordan would attack! Also Jordan was great but, there wasn’t any real superstars to go at him. Only a few.

  11. Inamo says:

    Stup*d comments coming from people who only watched highlights of the 90’s and more of salivating over the Kobe’s and LBJ’s. There’s no way really to make these people understand about it. Just let them play basketball with their PS’ and XBox’s hahahaha. Don’t be a critic if you haven’t been playing the game.

  12. R4 says:

    Paytons know exactly what he talking about because he was able to stop Jordan from winning any rings. You got to take his word for it because he made sure Jordan never lead the NBA in scoring. And ps Payton also was the reason Jordan never won any MVP

  13. Game Time says:

    Some of you need to get off MJ’s sac. Just cause a guy is (considered) the greatest of all time doesn’t mean he was the hardest to guard for everyone.

  14. Soniver says:

    I thought it was Parker… He never been good against him

  15. chris kringle says:

    The guy knows the game. It is interesting to see comments like “Jordan was the hardest guard to defend. Ever. Period.”. None of us (probably) havent played in NBA. Of course, MJ is the most celebrated player and probably the greatest ever in the history of the game.

    But when someone who has defended both MJ and Stockton says Stockton is tougher, everyone should shut up and listen. Stockton was more efficient, less flashly, always out of spotlight.

    FG% – .515%
    3P% – .384%

    FG% – .497%
    3P% – .327%

  16. nenesinho says:

    you idiots, payton has a ring!

  17. MC says:

    How come people say Payton never won a title??
    DIdn’t he play on the Miami Team of 2006 that went all the way??

  18. standard says:

    wtf are you trying to say?
    are you high?

  19. i would have to say John Stockton’s son, David Stockton, is a harder cover. . .book cover

  20. When I talk on the court and the other guy doesn’t talk back it gets to me so I understand where he’s coming from

  21. Gilbert says:

    That is his comment so respect it guys.

  22. sports fan says:

    Every player has their nemesis & MJ realistically can’t be a nemesis to everyone. I think it’s great that Payton said Stockton was the hardest to guard because it’s the mental part of the game that really creates rivalries. Rivals are usually playing the same position & Stockton is a rival point guard. Reggie Miller said his nemesis was Drazen Petrovic & said that Petrovic always got the better of him. Charles Barkley said his nemesis was Kevin McHale because he was the hardest to guard & had the hardest time scoring points against. McHale got into Barkley’s head & knew that he owned him on the court. And Dennis Rodman mentioned that Horace Grant always pissed him off. Miller & Payton are the ones who usually got into people’s heads with their trash talking which was actually just a means to get them going, but Petrovic & Stockton were the ones who got under THEIR skins. Payton seeking out Stockton to be one of his presenters speaks volumes & really shows how much respect Payton has for him.

  23. ALLNBAWiSEMAN says:

    Don’t understand why people are saying that he is lying. He says that he could play a higher level of D against Jordan since Jordan talked back, couldn’t play as high of a level against Stockton because he could not get under his skin. It’s harder to guard someone when you are frustrated at the person instead of playing at your highest possible level of D against someone.

  24. Long time Bulls fan - But a realist says:

    Payton’s still butthurt because MJ and the Bulls are the reason he never won a Title. Stockton – harder to guard than Jordan (I know, why not ask what Stockton thinks about that comment? I’m sure even HE would bust a gut laughing). Payton, Payton, Payton… Shaking my damn head.

    • Debois says:

      He never won a title? You do realise he has a ring, right?

    • Kamote says:

      Let me explain it to you. GP isn’t bitter at MJ, I mean he is the “school bully” that no one can stand up against at that time. But he respects Stockton because he is less basketball-skilled than him (well, at least athletically), but he he’s having the hardest time beating him. Its all about respect bro. GP recognizes Stockton’s flaws (as opposed to MJ’s gifts) that’s why he respects him much. MJ IS THE GOAT, no questions about that (except for stupid Kobe and LBJ fans), but GP pays tribute to the player he give his utmost respect.

    • Eli says:

      Dumb guy Payton won a Tittle with the heats. With shaq,wade, Walker, morning etc. don’t said never won a Tittle.

  25. TTKIN says:

    Do I think he’s bitter towards MJ and the Bulls? Ya.

    But I never played in the NBA and he is one of the greatest defenders in history…I’ll take his word for it.

  26. dwighthoward12 says:

    hmmmm im not sure about this im sure of it and you are to that stockten was a miracle

  27. lol…he’s just saying this like Karl Malone because MJ was the reason he never won a championship in Seattle…might still be a little bitter about it

    • mj says:

      your comment is DUMB. Gary payton played 15 games against michael jordan in his entire career they met once in the playoffs that went 6 games, even during that series gary payton perform better FG% wise from the three and mid range even during game 6 payton went off shooting 70 percent and 60 percent from the three, why would he be bitter of MJ if they played in entirely different conference? payton play 49 games against stockton..use your common sense before you comment.

      • Kamote says:

        No one is bitter. GP, Karl, Stockton, Charles etc. have played the best basketball of their lives. Its just so happened that they played against the GOAT. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to be bitter about. They played their game at their best, they didn’t whine to get All-star team mates nor they went to form superteams. They played well with their cards… and lost. But that’s what makes EVERY game (not just basketball) great. You play with the best with what you have, and not go bitter even if you lose. Fans nowadays just don’t know that. Be DIVAS instead and win. No honor in it. F*ck.

  28. Ro says:

    ‘He would shoot eight times and make nine’
    Not sure what that means Gary…
    Dont think he means Stockton was harder to defend. Jordan was the hardest guard to defend. Ever. Period. You cant argue that. Gary’s biggest strength (other than his ball-hawk defense) was getting in people’s heads. Talking smack and trying things other than bball defense to irritate you and alter your focus. Rodman did it. John Starks. They were all very good at it!
    But in my opinion he just means that it was harder to get under Stockton’s skin, so he had to rely on bball defense rather than smack talking. Give credit to Stockton, one of the best if not the best PG ever.

    • MJ says:

      your retarted dude

    • Iceman says:

      “He would shoot eight times and make nine (POINTS)” is how I see it. He was .515 FG% career. Payton made it clear “Stockton was the hardest guy to guard” because he couldn’t get inside his head like he could Jordan and others. Regardless of the reason (b-ball IQ or athleticism) Stockton was the hardest guy for Payton to defend.

    • The Beard says:

      it means he would make 8 out of 9 shots which means he was efficient, more than Jordan. if you’re gonna bag on Stockton who holds more records than Jordan, than at least know what a stat line is.

    • bunbury says:

      please learn to read between the lines. he means that he wouldn’t shoot a lot but he was very efficient.