Anyone familiar with Gary Payton‘s playing career surely looks at the affable, friendly analyst on FOX Sports 1 and thinks, “That’s Gary Payton?”
In his post-playing days, Payton is nothing like he was as an NBA player. By his own admission, Payton was a tough, mean player in his 17-year career, but he has softened since his retirement in 2007.
Still, Payton remains an expert on trash-talking. He joined fellow FOX Sports 1 personalities Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole on The Jay & Dan Podcast on Friday and broke down the best trash-talkers he ever faced, and his list, not surprisingly, consisted of Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird, three of the most notorious trash-talkers ever.
But Payton disputes the common notion that Jordan was the best.
“I think Larry Bird was waaaaaay better than him,” Payton says. “Larry Bird was a talker. He’d tell you something and you’d be like, are you kidding me? You’re really telling me that?”
Bird’s most famous moment with his mouth probably came against Xavier McDaniel. Bird infamously told the then-Sonics forward precisely the location where he would hit a game-winning shot — and then did so. Moments like that were not uncommon, according to Payton.
“He would tell you, ‘I’m going to take this ball down here and I’m going to shoot this jumper in your [expletive] mouth,” Payton says. “Are you kidding me? He’d say, ‘I’m going to take you right over here, and you’re not going to stop me.’ He is a piece, a real piece.
“You’ve seen him with Magic [Johnson]. They were really like that. He was really hateful toward Magic. … That’s why he quit a year later. When Magic went down with his HIV thing, [Bird] said a year later he couldn’t play because the person who motivates him in basketball is not there no more and he misses him. And that’s the way it was.”
Payton concludes by paying Bird a compliment in a way only two of the game’s toughest competitors would understand.
“He was a mean guy, a real mean guy, but a great person,” Payton says.
Check out Payton’s full comments in the video below, starting around the 34:30 mark.