Gary Payton penned an essay for the Players Tribune Thursday, detailing—among other things—that time he made the mistake of talking various forms of trash to Michael Jordan. The trash-talking in question occurred way back in 1990 and resulted in some surprisingly casual gum-chewing.
"It was a preseason game against the Bulls my rookie year," Payton said. "So it's 1990. It was the Bulls but not the Michael Jordan Bulls yet, know what I mean? It's before the first three-peat. They were still getting beat in the playoffs by Detroit, in like '88 and '89. And so I'm coming in there, preseason, second pick in the draft. I don't care who the hell Michael Jordan is. I'd seen him when I was coming up. To me it was like, O.K., he's good … but he's not all that."
Payton added that he was a rookie "so of course" he was "talking crazy" to Jordan. "A few weeks later, we had the Bulls for the first time in the regular season, at home in Seattle," Payton said. "I've been working for it, waiting for it, I'm ready. And of course, everybody's talking about how it's the Bulls—how Michael's coming to town. I'm like, O.K. I gave them 19. I know I can get down on MJ, no problem. So we go out there before the game, and everybody is shaking hands at the circle. MJ wouldn't shake my hand."
MJ also wouldn't take it easy on Payton once the game started. He scored more than 30 points during the game while Payton was held scoreless after getting into foul trouble early.
Jordan later approached Payton to inquire about how that previous trash-talking helped him in the game. "I'm sitting on the bench, and MJ comes over to our bench—comes right up to me while the game is still going on," Payton said. "Coach is standing right there. Everyone on the bench is staring at him. Looks right at me. 'That sh*t you talking in preseason?' The wild thing is, MJ isn't even mad or nothing. He's chewing his fucking gum. 'This is the real shit right here. Welcome to the NBA, little fella.'"
Read Payton's full essay here.