Friday, April 29, 2011

Chris Paul: A Distributor On and Off the Court

Chris Paul and company battled with every fiber of their being, but the length, experience, and overall talent of the Lakers proved to be too much for the feisty Hornets. Now, following a brilliant individual playoff series performance, Paul will have to ask himself some tough questions.

Does he want to stay in New Orleans?

Is this team committed to bringing in the necessary pieces to win?

Paul's knee injury he suffered in 2009 gave him a glimpse of how quickly an injury can change a course of a career or drive one off a cliff. Paul now possesses a sense or urgency, a knowledge that an NBA career is measured in dog years. New Orleans lost the series, but Paul's play elevated his stock faster than when Apple released the I Phone. On the court, Chris Paul is once again ice-cold calculation, fast yet patient, and visceral as much as intellectual.

As masterful a show as he put on during these playoffs, his assists off the court shined through even brighter. His humanitarian and warm hearted nature shows the real Christopher Emmanuel Paul. When the Hornets point guard heard about a high school basketball player from New Hampshire who lost his mother in February from a tragic snow mobile accident, Paul's memory was immediately triggered to a tragedy parallel to his own past.

It was nine years ago that Paul's grandfather, Nathanial Jones was beaten to death outside of his gas station in North Carolina by five fifteen-year-old teenagers; Jones hands duct-taped to a fence, left to die for the few bucks in his wallet. He was 61 years old. 48 hours later, Paul played in his high school basketball game scoring 61 points, a point for each year of the man's life that shaped him as a basketball player and most importantly, a human being. When Chris announced he would be playing college ball for Wake Forest, Jones was standing at his grandsons side.

When Paul reached the 61-point mark, he intentionally missed a free throw, and then took himself out of the game even though the state high school scoring record of 66 points was within reach.

The 14-year-old high school student named Brad Rhoades followed with his own tribute, scoring 46 points in his high school game for every year of his mother's life. Chris Paul's honoring of his grandfather whose murder was disgraceful, indefensible and an unspeakable tragedy brought strength to a teenage boy now without his mother.

After hearing of this story, Paul invited Rhoades and his father for the third game of the series to New Orleans. The playoffs for most athletes are a time when they close their emotional doors from all "distractions", but Paul went out of his way to open his heart. Rhoades and his father received one of the best seats in the arena, signed jerseys, sneakers, posters, and he even got to warm up with Paul before the game.

The greatest gift received that night wasn't one-sided however. Paul and Rhoades both were given the gift of a mutual bond they will share for the rest of their lives.

A die-hard Celtics fan, but on this night, no one in the stands was cheering CP3 louder than Brad Rhoades.

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