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Michael Jordan’s epic reaction to Gary Payton’s defensive job in ’96 NBA Finals


One of the highlights Episode 8 of “The Last Dance” is the 1996 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle SuperSonics. Gary Payton had been crowned Defensive Player of the Year and was tasked to guard Michael Jordan after being down 3-0. According to Payton, he succeeded he guarding his Airness but they lost because he didn’t push the pedal to the metal. Upon seeing the clip of Payton saying that he locked him down, Jordan had an epic reaction.

Peep the screenshots and the video below to see Jordan’s reaction to Payton’s claims. After bursting out in laughter, Jordan said that he didn’t have any trouble with Payton.

Payton’s claims may be backed up by statistics. The Glove started guarding Michael Jordan in Game 4 of the NBA Finals up until Game 6 where the Bulls booted them out. In these games, Jordan scored 23, 26, and 22 points — which are way below his averages.

In retrospect, there are some who believe that coach George Karl should’ve put Payton on Jordan right from the get-go. But Karl, as mentioned in the documentary, wanted Payton to carry the offensive chores for the Sonics. He only made the adjustment in Game 4 — a tad bit late for Jordan and the Bulls who just locked in a 72-win season.

And as Jordan said, the reason for his relatively low output was that he had other things in his mind. Father’s Day landed on Game 6 of the NBA Finals. And as we all have discovered, Jordan’s dad was his rock, the one who shaped and motivated him.