LOS ANGELES - It was rather fitting that superstar Chris Paul recorded his 5,000th career assist Wednesday on a play that required more than merely making a pass.

He drove hard to his right, took a very Chris Paul-esqe step-back jumper, missed short, gathered his own rebound and found Blake Griffin waiting at the basket for a dunk and a foul. More fitting, perhaps, was that the perennial MVP candidate collected the historic assist against the New Orleans Hornets, his former team.

“It’s pretty cool, especially to do it here in front of our home crowd,” Paul said as he sat next to Griffin at the postgame dais. “I told him (Griffin), he got the 5,000th one and he made the free throw.”

It didn’t take long for Paul to reach No. 5,000, both in the immediate and in the historical perspective. He needed nine assists entering the night and took care of it 22:28 into the game, becoming the third youngest player to reach the 5,000 assist plateau and closed the first half with his tenth assist for good measure. He finished with 10 points and 12 assists on the game

Remarkably, despite missing 18 games in his second season because of injury and another 37 games in 2009-10 after sustaining ankle and knee injuries, Paul became the third youngest player to achieve the milestone, behind only Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. John Stockton, the league’s all-time assist leader, was 28 before he reached 5,000.

“He’s the third quickest to do it,” said Lamar Odom, who made a baseline jumper in the first quarter for assist No. 4,997. “Better than a passer, or scorer, or leader, he’s a competitor. He’s a gladiator, and he’s one of the best.”

In reaching his 5,000th career assist, Chris Paul was…
…The 54th player all-time and first since Kevin Garnett on March 17, 2012.
…Third youngest (27 years, 228 days) and fifth ever to do it before turning 28. 
…Fifth fastest in terms of number of games (510).
…Among 11 players to reach the mark before the end of their eighth NBA season. 

Photo: Varon Panganiban

In 85 games with the Clippers Paul has accumulated 755 assists. He’s averaged more than 10.0 per game three times in his career, including twice leading the league when he was a member of the Hornets and dishing out a career-high 925 assists during the 2007-08 season when he finished second in the league’s MVP balloting.

“It’s really cool,” Griffin said when asked about being the recipient of Paul’s 5,000th assist. “I said in [the locker room] that it’s cool to be a part of that, but that’s one of thousands obviously. It’s cool to experience that and be there for the end of that and be a part of it as a team, but that’s definitely not the last.”

After Griffin’s dunk, a message congratulating Paul flashed on the video board at Staples Center and the crowd awarded him with a standing ovation. Chants of “C-P-3” rang out for the next two possessions. At the first timeout of the third quarter, the team played a tribute video of some of his best assists as a member of the Clippers with the message: “This holiday season, it’s better to give than receive. Congratulations, CP3.”

“I didn’t know what everybody was cheering for,” Paul said with a playful smile. “I didn’t know, seriously. I’m always so intense into the game, trying to find out what defense we’re in or what we’re running. I think I was talking to Blake and asked him what was going on, and he told me.”

Paul entered Wednesday’s game needing nine helpers to become the 54th player in NBA history to reach 5,000. Here is how he did it: 

Assist No. 4,992: Paul spins between Austin Rivers and Robin Lopez before dishing to DeAndre Jordan for a right-handed layup.

Assist No. 4,993: Paul uses an inside-out dribble on Rivers, a throws one-handed pass to Jordan for a dunk on the possession following his first assist.

Assist No. 4,994: Paul gets into the lane with a between the legs dribble and kicks it to Willie Green in left corner for a 3-pointer.

Assist No. 4,995: Paul drives into the lane, draws help from Anthony Davis and slides a pass in between defenders for a baseline dunk from Griffin.

Assist No. 4,996: Driving right, Paul hangs in the air and finds Griffin cutting to the basket on the left baseline for a dunk.

Assist No. 4,997: Paul finds Lamar Odom on the left baseline for a wide-open jumper.

Assist No. 4,998: Almost immediately after re-entering the game in the second quarter, Paul drives past Greivis Vasquez on the right baseline and lobs it up to DeAndre Jordan for an alley-oop on the opposite side of the rim. Jordan was fouled on the play as well, but missed the free throw.

Assist No. 4,999: On perhaps his most pedestrian assist of the night, Paul passes to Caron Butler, who drives into lane, half spins and hits jumper.  

Assist No. 5,000: He misses a baseline jumper, but grabs his own rebound and finds Griffin under the basket for a dunk and a foul. Griffin made the ensuing free throw.

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