The Stats That Show Gary Payton Did Tire Out Michael Jordan in the 1996 NBA Finals

Episode 8 of The Last Dance revisited the 1996 NBA Finals and provided arguably the funniest moment of ESPN's 10-part documentary yet.

The eighth instalment of the series, which chronicles Michael Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls, focused on Jordan's first full season in the NBA since his return in 1995 and the Bulls' quest for a fourth title. Having originally retired in October 1993, Jordan returned to the NBA in March 1995, but Chicago crashed out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after losing in six games against the Orlando Magic.

By the following season, however, Jordan and the Bulls were back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 with the Seattle SuperSonics standing between them and a fourth ring in six seasons.

Led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the SuperSonics arrived in the NBA Finals as the Western Conference's No. 1 seed and boasting the NBA's second-best regular season record behind only the Bulls, who had just registered a record-breaking 72-10 record.

In The Last Dance, Payton revealed he thought he had figured out a way of slowing down Jordan and that he wished Seattle head coach George Karl had allowed him to guard MJ before the SuperSonics found themselves trailing 3-0 in the series.

Known as The Glove for his defensive abilities, Payton is arguably the greatest defensive point guard in NBA history.

The second overall pick of the 1990 NBA Draft, Payton was a First-Team All-Defense selection nine years in a row between 1994 and 2002 and arrived into the 1996 NBA Finals as the freshly-named Defensive Player of the Year.

"A lot of people backed down on Mike. I didn't," Payton said in the documentary, before explaining the key to neutralize MJ was to adopt the same physically attritional style the Detroit Pistons used to minimize him during their playoffs battles, which The Last Dance delved into in Episode 3 and 4.

"Just tire him [Jordan] out. Tire the f**k out of him," the former Seattle star recalled

"You just got to tire him out and I kept hitting him and banging him [during the game]."

Payton's interview was then shown to Jordan, who proceeded to deliver one of the most dismissive laughs ever seen.

The contempt Jordan showed for Payton's words was as brutal an evisceration of an opponent as any he delivered on the court during his career.

Gary Payton thought he found a way to get to MJ ... Mike wasn't sweating the Glove 😂 #TheLastDance

— ESPN (@espn) May 11, 2020

"The Glove. I had no problem with The Glove," Jordan said, clearly struggling to contain his laughter.

"I had no problem with Gary Payton. I had a lot of other things on my mind."

Jordan's reaction was particularly significant as, like him, Payton was a tremendous competitor and, like him, he was also a prodigious trash-talker.

With Payton nursing a calf injury, Karl initially opted to relieve his star of defensive duties on Jordan, preferring instead to allow Payton to focus on his scoring instead—the Sonics had average only 89 points in the Western Conference Finals against the Utah Jazz.

The move backfired spectacularly, as the Bulls raced to a 3-0 lead in the series, with Jordan scoring 28, 29 and 36 points respectively in the first three games.

With Jordan averaging 31 points per game and five assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the field from Game 1 to Game 3, Karl eventually relented to allow Payton to guard the Bulls No. 23 from Game 4.

The move paid off, as Jordan's averages in points and assists per game fell to 23.7 and 3.8 between in the next three games, while his shooting percentage declined to 36.7 percent.

While Jordan top scored for the Bulls in all three games, his reduced offensive production allowed the Sonics to win both Game 4 and Game 5. Payton did even better in Game 6, limiting Jordan to a series-low 22 points, but the Bulls defense kept the Sonics to just 75 points thanks to a dominant performance from Dennis Rodman to clinch a fourth NBA title.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket as Seattle SuperSonics guard Gary Payton (right) defends against him in the fourth quarter a regular season game at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on March 18, 1997. The Bulls defeated the Supersonics 89-87 in overtime. Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty