Gary Payton made an interesting choice as to who will be his presenter at his Hall of Fame induction on Sunday. In addition to George Gervin, his childhood idol, Payton selected John Stockton, a contemporary point guard he battled with many times on the court.
In a few surprising comments as part of an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Payton explained that he always respected Stockton, even if he hated playing against him. Payton also said Stockton was the toughest player he had to guard — including Michael Jordan.
“He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard,” Payton said of Stockton, according to Marc Spears. “Those battles [with Jordan] were a little easier.Â I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me, it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say nothing and you couldn’t figure him out. He’d keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket.”
It makes some sense that Payton and Stockton would have mutual respect. Both were among the more annoying players in their times, Payton because of his ceaseless trash-talking and Stockton because of his pick-setting.
Payton didn’t think Stockton was dirty, though. He just though Stockton was smart.
“Everyone said he was dirty,” Payton said. “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.Â 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 nine times and make eight. 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.”
Payton, along with Bernard King and Dawn Staley, will be inducted into the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., as players on Sunday.