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Some things are bigger than championships, like the impact Chris Paul made on his Hall of Fame career.
After the Milwaukee Bucks took four straight wins behind historic performances to overcome a 0-2 deficit, we knew the slander would come from Chris Paul.
“He is the first ever to blow four 2-0 series Leads.” … “He will never win the big one.” … “I bet his twin brother Cliff isn’t even real.” …
The masses of hot takes will keep pouring in—one more insufferable than the next—until something new grabs NBA Twitter’s attention. Yes, championships are the most important thing, but winning the NBA title is an incredibly tough feat. Especially if you overlap with Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and LeBron James.
Paul ends up (safely) in the top-10 point guards to ever play and (controversially) in the top-5 depending on who you ask. The #RINGZ crowd will always hold the championship against him or shoot him down the rankings if he takes one down. But this Ricky Bobby, smooth mentality has flaws. Mainly, many of the best players to ever praise the hardwood never won a championship and many guys less than Paul have fingers adorned with jewelry.
If Paul got a ring as a banker instead of a star, would that really move the needle for how he remembers?
For all his dirty play and flops – which should be rightly mentioned – he is the grandmaster of skilled knowledge, manipulating the game and working the margins to his liking. His Hall of Fame résumé says he is 11-time All-Atar, 10-time All-NBA, 9-time All-Defense, Rookie of the Year, and leads six times in steals and four assists.
And somehow his genius only grew along with his longevity. At the conclusion of his 16th season, Paul became the monster of the middle class. I mean, take a look at this:
The level of difficulty on that falling 12-footer over a guy who’s a foot taller than him is insane. What’s even crazier, Paul makes half a dozen similar shots every game. It takes a tremendous amount of training and skill to master the cunning and angles to thrive in the competition despite being the shortest person on the field.
Chris Paul has consistently taken his teams to the next level
Even without a title, Paul’s legacy is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston, OKC again (with the Thunder this time), his last stay in Phoenix…he made every team better.
He kept the Hornets franchise together after Hurricane Katrina moved them to Oklahoma City. He gave the Clippers legitimacy for the first time in their non-narrative history. They went 32-50 and missed the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 seasons, then were placed in the No. 5 of the league table after forming Lob City and turning into a perpetual postseason game. The Thunder won 44 games with him before tumbling to 22 wins last season. He helped the Suns out of the doldrums and an 11-year playoff drought to 51 wins, the No. 2 seed in the west and the final.
Now, at age 36, with nearly 38,000 regular season minutes on his odometer, Paul has seemingly only a few seasons left. Though it’s hard to reconcile with the more efficient-than-ever 16 points and 9 assists he’s put in as an All-NBA Second-Teamer this year.
Maybe he’ll get one next year. Or perhaps further afield like a skilled ring hunter in his twilight. I have to assume that he would choose it either way and that nothing would make him happier than hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy while his face is burning with sweat and tears.
While it would make for an end to a movie script, its place in the history books has been largely written down. Ultimately, adding a championship to his ledger should not affect his status (not Which a lot, at least).
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