Who would have thought that Chris Paul would turn into the main character of an NBA fairy tale story?
The former five-star recruit and fourth overall pick in the 2005 Draft has carved out a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. For most NBA fans, Paul has always been CP3, one of the most dominant guards in the game over the last 15 seasons. He was always expected to hold his ground, at a minimum, against the best of the best.
But now Paul holds a new role in the eyes of NBA fans. We used to see him as this star with unmistakable basketball skill and a high hoops I.Q. that should have already made him a winner on the highest level. As the leading star with the Los Angeles Clippers during the prime of his career, Paul was given such high expectations and oftentimes they went unfulfilled.
Now, he’s taken over a different role — as the lovable underdog in pursuit of glory not many stars in the league have ever achieved at his age.
Paul led the Phoenix Suns last night in a closeout Game 4 against the Nuggets with 37 points. It’s one of the best playoff performances by any player 36 years of age or older. Now the Suns are in the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010, just one year after the same team finished five games below .500 without Paul.
It’s odd for us to see Paul thriving as the underdog, but ironically maybe that’s where he best sees himself. In a postgame interview following the Suns’ victory,
“I wasn’t this phenom. I wasn’t necessarily supposed to be here. I played two years of JV basketball,” said Paul. “It ain’t always been sweet for me. I’ve always had to grind. I like that mentality. That’s always been who I’ve been, and I’m going to stay that way.”
Hopefully, Paul will keep grinding his way to the NBA Finals and capture that elusive first championship. This is arguably the best chance he’s ever had to change the entire perception of his career.
In a league that’s been so fixated on super teams for the last decade, it’s nice to see a star like Paul take hold of a different narrative for a change. It’s exactly the type of feel-good story the league needs at this point in time.
It’s crazy how life works sometimes, Chris Paul could finally reach the mountaintop as the NBA Cinderella we never thought we’d have.