A warning, right from the get-go: What you're about to read may contain some "old guy" language with references to how things were better "back in the day." It undoubtedly will also touch on the toughness of former players compared to the current crop. In addition, it's certain to get nostalgic and perhaps even a bit mushy as it discusses a couple of old NBA rivals -- one hated around these parts, the other beloved -- who will soon reunite for a basketball celebration.
OK, you've been warned.
Former Seattle Supersonics point guard Gary Payton is going into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday. In a bit of a surprise move, he has asked former Jazz Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton to be his presenter.
That's hardly fresh news. In fact, the initial announcement was made several months ago. However, Payton, who has a broadcasting job with newly-launched sports network Fox Sports1, recently raised some eyebrows with flattering comments he made about Stockton, his longtime Western Conference rival.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Payton suggested Stockton was tougher to guard than Michael Jordan, back in the day.
Payton, whose cocksure, aggressive style exemplified a toughness he honed growing up in Oakland, Calif., was known for talking trash on the court. Such incessant chatter was an effective part of his game, especially on the defense end where he earned the nickname "The Glove" for his ability to guard opponents closer than a second skin.
Responding to the question, "Did John Stockton ever talk trash back to you," Payton was unequivocal.
"Never," he told Yahoo! Sports columnist Marc J. Spears. "That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He's the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he'd just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over. There was much respect to him doing that to me. It taught me a lot."
I love it, and not just because I live here in the heart of John Stockton/Utah Jazz Country. I love it because it hearkens back to when the NBA was more interesting and players didn't yearn to join forces. In doing so it also captures the two vastly differing styles of two Hall of Fame competitors.
"I really think I was better (than Stockton) as an athlete and in everything all-around," Payton said. "But he was just a smarter basketball player than us. He just got it done. I do think I was a better basketball player. I can do more things skills-wise. He just showed he knew how to play the game and that was the biggest difference."
Jazz fans didn't particularly like Payton, nor did Sonics fans particularly care for Stockton, a Washington native. What's more, Stockton and Payton weren't exactly buddies on the court.
But there was -- and is -- a genuine respect between the two, one forged from a common love of basketball and competition.
That's pretty cool.
Plus, the only thing better than Gary Payton saying kind things about John Stockton is Gary Payton saying kind things about John Stockton while taking a little swipe at Michael Jordan.
Getting under Stockton's skin was almost impossible. Rattling Jordan, however, wasn't that difficult, Payton said.
"Those battles were a little easier," he said. "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. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things."
Now those are some Hall of Fame comments from one of the all-time greats. And something tells me Gary "The Glove" Payton just got a little more popular here in John Stockton/Utah Jazz country.
Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jmb247.