Listening to Gary Payton talk about basketball is fun, because save for maybe Charles Barkley, no one is more up front about what they’re thinking than The Glove. He was a ruthless trash talker during his career, and in his post-playing days, he has turned that ruthlessness into bluntness when he’s talking about the league.
An example came in an interview that Payton did with Sports Illustrated. Because he is a person who exists and has been around basketball in some capacity in his life, Payton was asked to compare the 1996 Chicago Bulls to the 2016 Golden State Warriors. Since they’re the two best regular season teams in league history, everyone wants to know how they would stack up with one another, and because Payton played against that Bulls team in the ’96 Finals, he does have some level of insight into just how good they were.
Here is Payton’s answer. It is, so far, the best answer that we’ve heard to this question in ∞ times that it has been posed:
I don’t compare them and I don’t want to compare them. They’re two different animals. The Bulls did it with a physical type of basketball, we could hand check, we could do a lot of things. It was just a different era. They come back 20 years later and go 73-9. I couldn’t compare them, because if we put Golden State in that era a lot of teams, to me, would give them problems. Because we were more physical, we put our hands on them. A lot of our teams in this era we probably would have fouled out, we probably would have had a lot of problems.
Thank you, Gary Payton, for pointing out the obvious issues in trying to compare two teams from two entirely different eras. Maybe if they were to play in some alternate dimension, we’d be able to say with some amount of accuracy what could happen. But considering that that’s impossible, maybe we should all just do what Payton does and accept that these are two outstanding basketball teams that don’t need to be compared to one another.