• Gary Payton revealed how he limited Michael Jordan's scoring during 1996 NBA Finals
  • Sonics former head coach George Karl didn't want Payton to guard Jordan
  • Payton slowed Jordan down from 30 points to 21 points per game in the last three games of the series

NBA legend Gary Payton revealed the strategy he used to limit Michael Jordan from scoring during the 1996 NBA Finals.

Back in the 1995-96 NBA season, Payton, along with Shawn Kemp, led the Seattle Supersonics to the finals where they faced Jordan and the Bulls. The said championship series was one of the most epic NBA championship moments for Payton as it was the time when he embraced the most important task of his entire career – to stop Jordan from scoring.

In an interview for Sonicsgate, Payton spoke about the preparation and the mindset he had in dealing with a mid 30’s yet still unstoppable Jordan.

At the time, Sonics then head-coach George Karl didn’t let Payton guard Jordan until game four due to a calf injury. Karl feared that their star point guard might get hurt and didn’t want to take the risk even though he knew Payton was the best defender the team has.

After the first 3 games of the series, Sonics was on the brink of blowing their NBA title hopes. With nothing to lose, Payton finally had enough courage to confront his coach and said he would gladly take that assignment upon himself, Basketball Network reported.

“I went to his office, and I said ‘look, we don’t have anything else to lose. Whether you gonna let me guard him or not, I will switch every play that you do anyways that go off him,’ He said, ‘do what you gotta do’,” Payton said.

The following game, “The Glove” did everything he could defensively to slow down Jordan, who was averaging over 30 points per game in the first three wins for the Bulls. Jordan was relatively successful but in the next three games, Payton managed to limit MJ to average only 21 points shooting extremely poor from the field.

Gary Payton Shawn Kemp
Sonics stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp discussing gameplan during an NBA game. Sportsskeeda

Payton revealed that there was really no way to stop Jordan from scoring. However, he was able to “tire him out” and made him work hard in every possession. But despite his success in limiting Jordan from scoring in bunches, Payton admitted that the ’96 Bulls were still a great team even with less contributions from Jordan.

“I tried to frustrate him as much as possible. It’s not easy because I knew I couldn’t frustrate him; he is the greatest basketball player that ever played to me. I think what I did was tire him out. I made him work for it a little bit more. He wasn’t really used to working so hard to get the basketball, and after you get the ball with about 8 or 9 seconds, you still got somebody right into you, and the referees weren’t calling the calls. They were letting us play,” Payton revealed.