Payton wrote in The Players' Tribune about MJ getting revenge for some preseason trash talk. He noted Jordan remembered The Glove's comments while battling Bulls teammate B.J. Armstrong in an exhibition contest and then took over in the teams' first regular-season meeting.
"Leave the f--king rookie to me," Jordan told Armstrong. After getting Payton in early foul trouble that forced him to the bench for an extended stretch, he walked over late in the game and said, "That s--t you talking in preseason? This is the real s--t right here. Welcome to the NBA, little fella."
As Payton pointed out, this all happened in 1990, before the Jordan legend really began to grow. The Bulls won the first of their six NBA championships in 1991.
The stalwarts of 1990s NBA basketball battled a lot over the years, including the 1996 NBA Finals, in which the Bulls edged the Sonics in six games.
Yet, Payton told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports in 2013 his toughest defensive assignment was longtime Utah Jazz star John Stockton, not MJ:
"Those battles [with Jordan] were a little easier. 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."
The Oregon State product ended up getting his first and only NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006. He added the championship to a resume that included nine All-Defensive First Team selections, nine All-Star Game nods and two appearances on the All-NBA First Team.
Meanwhile, Jordan was named the league's Most Valuable Player five times and is still widely regarded as the greatest basketball player in history.