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Gary Payton

Gary Payton was relentless on NBA courts. Despite being constantly knocked around by bigger players, Payton (6-4, 180 pounds) hopped back up, got buckets, played defense and talked trash. A lot of trash. That was part of his game, and it became an even greater focal point against Michael Jordan. So why was Payton so eager to run his mouth at the height of his game?

ThePostGame: You were known for talking a significant amount of trash during your career. You weren't the biggest guy out there. What gave you the confidence to talk on the court?
PAYTON: Growing up in Oakland, California, and being on the playgrounds, you get confidence because a lot of people come and talk trash and you wanted to be the bigger guy in the neighborhood, so I got it from there. Then, I had a father who really pushed me that way too. He was the same way. He told me, "If you go out there and want to play, and people talk trash to you, you've got to talk back. But the whole catch to that is, when you talk back, don't just talk, prove it. Show them what you can do, and when you show them what you can do, and shut them up, it's all to your advantage." I took that very personally, especially for him to coach me all the way through high school, that was a big deal, that's all I was taught. I was taught to know how to talk trash and back it up. Being a father, you know how fathers deal with their son. They let them do anything on a basketball team. I was "the guy." I got the ball, I got to shoot the ball a lot and that confidence got bigger and bigger.

TPG: Who did you know that you could get under their skin the most?
PAYTON: Everybody. I didn't care about anybody, that's why people always talk about the Michael Jordan thing. I knew that if I was competitive against Michael and challenge him, he's going to come back because he's a competitor. That's what he does. So I said, "I know I can get him to react." The only person I hated and didn't really get under his skin was John Stockton and he never talked to me. A lot of guys didn't understand that. They always thought, "I know he's a trash-talker, let me go back at him and continue to prove something." That's the wrong thing to do because I'm going to continue it for 48 minutes on the basketball court. If you get out of your game, that's your problem because I'm not going to get out of my game. I've done this for a long period of time. I got very good at it and that was my motivation.

TPG: Did Michael talk right back at you?
PAYTON: Oh yeah, most definitely. Michael would talk back at you and do what he needed to do. You couldn't stop Michael Jordan, you could try to contain him. If you could get him to start talking, that makes it more competitive, and that’s what he wanted. He excels off of competitive people going back at it, but you don't have that every night. Michael Jordan dominated everybody, but I made it a point where I would go and talk to the referees and say, "Let us just play. I'm supposed to be the best defensive player in the NBA. He's the best offensive player. Let me try to guard him, let me do what I can do." That was just my mentality. That's what I wanted to do, and every time that we would play, they would let us play out.

TPG: Who would you rather guard, John Stockton or Michael Jordan?
PAYTON: Michael Jordan because it would be more fun. John is not going to say nothing to me. He's going to be all workhorse. He's going to put his yellow hat on and he's going to come to work. He's just going to pound, pound at you and say nothing to you and then that becomes a real tough job for me. If I play against Michael Jordan, I'm going to play, have fun, I'm going to talk a lot of trash and we're going to be really, really competitive. It's going to make the game a lot more exciting. I love to play against Mike because it makes the game more enjoyable for me.

Payton spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of the NBA, as a spokesman for NBA All-Star voting. Payton was a nine-time All-Star himself.

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