Who among today's top NBA guards can thrive in 90s? Gary Payton singles out Westbrook
NBA great Gary Payton grants interviews at the NBA store in Makati. Jan Ballesteros

GARY Payton bared that he enjoys watching guards dominate the NBA these days but the Hall of Famer believes only one in this new generation of players could have thrived in his era: Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook.

Back-to-back MVP Steph Curry leads a stellar list of guards dominating the NBA, including Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard to name a few. But the NBA legend fondly called ‘The Glove’ said most of these speedy, athletic, sublime scorers would definitely feel the difference if they had played against the highly physical defense of the 90s.

"I think that our defense would have been a little bit tougher. We'd put them on the floor a lot," Payton told SPIN.ph on Tuesday at the NBA Store in Makati.

Payton, who's in town to grace the opening of the league’s latest shop in Cebu later this month, even pointed out some of the defensive tactics Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, had to go through back in their day.

"Remember when Michael Jordan was starting off... he's going to the basket against the Knicks, the Detroit (bad boys) they hurt him a lot and made him think about going to the basket a lot," he said. 

Still, Payton pointed out Westbrook, who’s averaging 31.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 14.6 assists early this season, could play and even excel despite the more physical play in the 90s — with a warning, of course. 

"Westbrook is a great talent," he said. "I think he could play in our era but it would have been a little bit harder. We're gonna make him understand he's not gonna come in there flying like that."

The Sonics legend, though, longs for more defense but he understands the high-octane games are what keeps fans entertained.

"Now this is what it's about: you got a 2 guard converted into 1. A lot of kids want to score and see a lot of scoring," he said.

"But I still want them to see more defense, more concept basketball... But this is their era, we can't say anything about it so we deal with it and watch it."

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