After 15 NBA seasons, point guard Chris Paul has solidified himself as one of the top playmakers in the NBA and one its best of all time.
Here’s a look at 10 things to know about Phoenix’s guard, his life and his NBA career.
Tobacco Road roots: Chris Paul rose to national prominence as a senior at West Forsyth High school in Clemmons, N.C., when he scored 61 points in a game he dedicated to his grandfather, who was slain earlier that year. Paul’s grandfather was 61 years old, so he scored one point for every year his grandfather had lived, collapsing into the arms of his family after coming to the bench after sinking his final basket. One of the nation’s top prep point guards, he was a McDonald’s All-American and earned first-team Parade All-American honors. Paul chose to stick close to home and attend nearby Wake Forest University for college.
A feisty Demon Deacon: Paul’s reputation as a fierce competitor — especially for his relatively small size (6 feet, 175 pounds) — was bolstered in his two seasons in a Demon Deacons uniform. His by-any-means-necessary approach (competitors would call it “dirty”) stood out in a crowded field of quality point guards in the conference and across the country. As a freshman, he was named ACC Rookie of the Year and lead his team to the NCAA Tournament. He earned consensus first-team All-American honors his sophomore season, leading Wake Forest back to the Big Dance. He declared for the 2005 NBA Draft after averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game in 2004-05, his final college season. Wake Forest retired his No. 3 jersey on March 2, 2011.
NBA rookie sensation: The New Orleans Hornets selected Paul with the fourth pick in the 2005 Draft and he wasted little time in establishing himself as the top player in his class. Even with the Hornets displaced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and forced to play most of their games in Oklahoma City, Paul’s arrival lit basketball fires in both cities. In the 2005-06 season, he led all rookies in points, assists, steals and double-doubles and finished one vote shy of winning unanimous Rookie of the Year honors. His friend and rival for top young point guard honors for years, Deron Williams, got the only other first-place vote. But Paul was just getting started with his takeover as the premier point guard in the entire league.
From star to superstar: Paul’s first two seasons served as the appetizer for the masterpiece he served up in his third season (2007-08), this one before the hometown fans in New Orleans. He delivered the Hornets from the lottery to the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings, where they sat in the top spot on March 17, 2008 after a win against the Chicago Bulls. The Hornets finished the season with a franchise-record 56 wins and the No. 2 spot in the playoff chase. Paul finished third in MVP voting and made both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. He averaged 21.2 ppg and led the league with 11.6 apg and 2.7 spg. Paul torched the Dallas Mavericks for 35 points in his playoff debut and in Game 2 he set a franchise playoff-record with 17 assists. He closed out the Mavericks in Game 5 with 24 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. The Hornets were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the next round, but Paul’s statement was already made.
Trouble in the Big Easy: Paul’s time in New Orleans was filled with career highs and lows, the down times caused by untimely injuries and the abrupt dismissal of coach Byron Scott after a slow start to the 2009-10 season. Paul felt the front office should have consulted him before making the decision. It wound up being the rift that never healed as Paul continued to play amazing basketball. In his last full season with the Hornets (2010-11), he led them to the playoffs and put on a show in a first round playoff series against Kobe Bryant and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. He worked the Lakers for 33 points, 14 assists and four steals in a Game 1 win and 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds in Game 2. He averaged 22 ppg, 11.5 apg, 6.7 rpg and 1.8 spg in the series, which would be his postseason swan song in a Hornets uniform.
Leader of the ‘Lob City’: Paul was originally scheduled to be the point guard for the other team in Los Angeles. On Dec. 8, 2011, the Hornets agreed to a three-team deal that would send Paul to the Lakers. But the NBA owned the Hornets at the time and then-NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the deal that would have paired Paul and Kobe Bryant in a superstar backcourt. Instead of joining the Lakers, Paul was dealt to the Clippers, ushering in the “Lob City” era. High-flying young big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were on the receiving end of beautiful tosses from Paul. The Clippers rode that wave to sustained relevance for the first time in the franchise’s L.A. history. Paul wrapped up his first season with the Clippers averaging 19.8 ppg, 9.1 apg and a league-best 2.5 spg, becoming the first Clipper to earn first-team All-NBA honors. With he and Griffin both earning All-NBA honors, the Clippers led a postseason charge that ended against the Spurs in the conference semifinals.
The Houston experiment: After six eventful (but ultimately fruitless) seasons wit the Clippers, Paul’s next attempt to break through the championship blockade in the West came with his pairing with James Harden. Houston’s mad analytical scientist of a GM, Daryl Morey, decided two elite starting point guards was better than one. It seemed to pay off as Houston had the defending champion Golden State Warriors on the ropes after building a 3-2 lead in the 2018 West finals. That’s when Paul suffered a right hamstring injury that knocked him out of the series. The Warriors rallied to win Games 6 and 7 and went on to win their second straight title. The Rockets got another shot at the Warriors in the 2019 West semifinals, only to meltdown after the Warriors lost reigning two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant to a calf injury in Game 5. They were eliminated in six games. Then on July 16, 2019, Paul was traded again, this time in a blockbuster deal to Oklahoma City for former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook.
An advocate and activist: Paul’s emergence as a leader on and off the court for his generation was bolstered by his ascendance as president of the National Basketball Players Association. He was elected president in 2013, after four years on the executive committee, and was re-elected for another four-year term in 2017. He was a prominent figure in the banning of Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA following the discovery of racist remarks Sterling made in 2014, threatening a possible boycott of his own team if Sterling was allowed to remain as owner. He played an integral role in the election of Michele Roberts as Executive Director of the NBPA. His position in the larger culture was crystalized with the advocacy work he took up alongside good friends and fellow superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. The four of them stood shoulder to shoulder on stage at the 2016 ESPYs to deliver a statement about the Black Lives Matter movement and a powerful call to action for the other athletes in the room.
Paul’s love of the other ball: If not for his basketball career, Paul might have chased his athletic fortune in bowling. An avid and expert bowler, Paul is more than just a bowling enthusiast. He owns a franchise in the Professional Bowler Association (PBA) League called L.A.X. and has hosted and participated in numerous celebrity and youth bowling showcases. He’s also a spokesperson for the United States Bowling Conference. His CP3 Foundation, which advocates for programs in Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina, as well as charities in his hometown of Winston-Salem, are the biggest beneficiaries of the foundation’s charitable efforts. Paul also owns a minority stake in the Winston-Salem Dash, the minor league baseball team located in his hometown, purchased in 2018.
Career comes full circle: Paul started the 2019-20 season in the same place his NBA career began: Oklahoma City. He was a casualty of the times, with the league’s highest profile players moving all around the free-agent landscape in the summer of 2019. But Paul’s legacy as one of the greatest point guards the game has seen is already set in stone. He’s a surefire future Hall of Famer. He ranks third behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton on the NBA assists per game list. He holds the record for most consecutive games with a steal (108) and is the only player in NBA history to lead the league in assists and steals two straight seasons. A nine-time All-Star, Paul has been All-NBA eight times, on the All-Defensive Team nine times, and also owns an All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award (2013) to go with his two Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012). Following the 2019-20 season, Paul was dealt again, this time to the Phoenix Suns.