In less than a week, John Stockton and George “Iceman” Gervin will formally introduce Gary Payton as he is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports spoke with the Fox Sports1 analyst a week before his big day.
Payton was his usual bombastic best, but he acknowledged a couple interesting points during the Q&A before showing his undying love for the Seattle area in a time when they need it.
But the big story is what Payton said about John Stockton, and how he felt Stockton was a harder matchup than even, gulp, Michael Jordan. The reasoning behind Payton’s choice of Stockton over MJ tells you a lot about what made The Glove so great.
After explaining why the Spurs’ lanky scorer, Gervin, was his childhood idol growing up, GP explains why he chose another Hall-of-Famer, Stockton, as his second presenter:
“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. I just imitated him while going about my business, talking trash and getting it done. After the game you would look at my stats and it would be right there.”
But when Spears asked Payton if Stockton ever talked any trash, Payton explained the impetus behind his respect for the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals:
“Never. 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. There was much respect to him doing that to me. It taught me a lot.”
Before you ponder Payton’s uncharacteristic humility, keep in mind that he still thought he was a superior player.
Spears: Even so, you once said you were better than Stockton?
Payton: “I was. I really think I was better as an athlete and in everything all-around. But he was just a smarter basketball player than us. He just got it done. I do think I was a better basketball player. I can do more things skills-wise. He just showed he knew how to play the game and that was the biggest difference.”