Gary Payton is regarded as one of the best trash talkers in NBA history. As Payton notes, NBA trash talk is an art form, and his ability to break players down both mentally and physically is why Payton is one of the best basketball players the league has ever seen.
Payton played in the glory days of NBA trash talk. You’ll still see some of that today, of course, but the Payton era crossed over with players like Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett who had the luxury of saying things on the court without fear.
Payton penned an article for The Players Tribune on Thursday that included a fantastic story about Jordan welcoming him to the NBA in his first regular season game. Apparently, Payton was trash talking the Bulls during a preseason game a few week prior. Jordan wasn’t really playing, but he could hear Payton jawing towards his teammates from the bench. Jordan remembered, and proceeded to make Payton’s NBA debut miserable.
Payton knew something strange was going down because Jordan wouldn’t shake his hand prior to tipoff. Jordan then told B.J. Armstrong, deliberately in front of Payton, to “leave the f*cking rookie to me.” He then proceeded to go at Payton and score on him repeatedly and getting him in foul trouble.
The game ended with Jordan scoring 33 points and Payton getting goose egged. I’ll let Payton take over the story from there.
Near the end of the game, I’m sitting on the bench, and MJ comes over to our bench — comes right up to me while the game is still going on. Coach is standing right there. Everyone on the bench is staring at him.
Looks right at me. “That sh*t you talking in preseason?”
The wild thing is, MJ isn’t even mad or nothing. He’s chewing his f*cking gum.
“This is the real sh*t right here. Welcome to the NBA, little fella.”
Welcome to the NBA indeed.