In the 1990s, there was no other team like the Chicago Bulls. With Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen at the helm, the Bulls dominated every team that stood in their way, winning six titles in eight years and preventing some of the game’s greatest talents from winning a championship ring. Guys like Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing could never get the job done, largely thanks to Jordan.
Another player who wasn’t able to win a ring in the 1990s was Gary Payton, who led his Seattle Supersonics to the 1996 NBA Finals but lost to Jordan. Luckily for him, Shaquille O’Neal was there to save the day.
During a recent edition of “The Big Podcast,” O’Neal spoke about his decision to bring Payton on board with the Miami Heat in 2006 and finally get him a ring, taking him out of the conversation of people who were stopped at the door by Jordan.
“I don’t want you on that list,” O’Neal said. “You shouldn’t be on that list. We had a tough era. You gotta go through Mike. We had to go through a lot of people. Gary, they made it one time and went up against Mike. I didn’t want him to be on that list. So I’m like, you know what, you need to come out here with me. I’m gonna get you one because I know I needed a tough point guard.”
Payton won a ring with the Heat in 2006, effectively erasing the narrative that he wasn’t able to get over the hump because of Jordan. And while that second part is still technically true, O’Neal made sure to push it into the background.