While The Last Dance reached its conclusion on Sunday evening, there has been plenty of fallout in recent days in the form of folks expressing discontent over the project. Former Chicago Bulls teammate Horace Grant was vocally upset with a number of aspects of ESPN’s 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and his final year in the Windy City, while a report indicates that Scottie Pippen wasn’t particularly happy with how he was portrayed, a sentiment shared by a few former teammates. Even Jerry Reinsdorf objected to something Jordan said in the series finale.
One person who popped up in the doc and offered up a bit of a critique is Gary Payton, the former Seattle SuperSonics guard who squared off against Jordan in the 1996 NBA Finals. Payton, perhaps the most tenacious defensive guard of all time, did not check Jordan for the first three games, which saw Seattle go down 3-0. Upon moving over, he appeared to give Jordan a hard time and helped the Sonics pick up a few wins, but when he explained his plan for guarding MJ, this happened:
“The Glove? I had no problem with the Glove. I had no problem with Gary Payton.”
—MJ on Gary Payton in the ’96 Finals #TheLastDance pic.twitter.com/wW5CG5L0u0
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 17, 2020
It is insightful analysis by Payton, and Jordan’s reaction is perhaps the funniest moment of the documentary, even if the numbers indicate that his play fell off once Payton checked him. However, Payton was not particularly happy with Jordan’s reaction, something he articulated during a cameo on the first episode of the Opinionated 7-Footers podcast with Brendan Haywood and Ryan Hollins.
Payton did make it a point to say that while he got riled up, he understood why this was Jordan’s approach. Via For the Win:
“Oh you know I was hot. I was thinking about calling him at the time. … But you know what, that’s what I expect out of Mike because I would’ve said the same thing. I would’ve said the same thing. You know me, B. I’m not gonna admit to nothing, man. I’m not gonna admit to somebody that D’d me up or did nothing.
I’ll always tell you that any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person, and that’s John Stockton to me. That is just the way the game goes. I’m not mad at Mike because Mike didn’t have too many games that nobody D’d him up.”
Payton gripe doesn’t seem to come from the same place as the rest of the critiques the doc has gotten from former players, even if he wasn’t a fan of the way Jordan viewed their Finals battle. Still, he gets why and even relates to Jordan’s comments, and managed to get a bit of a dig in on the Hall of Fame guard by bringing up his battles with Stockton.