The Point God: Chris Paul could cement his legacy in these NBA Finals
No one point guard in NBA history has felt as technically proficient and cunning in the vein of a genius-level supervillain like Chris Paul. A mix of Doctor Doom and Napoleon, Paul is headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in his life at 36, though his efficiency is about the same as it was when he was a 24-year-old All-Star in New Orleans.
Paul has been an “if you know, you know” superstar during his Hall of Fame-bound career. Injuries and flat-out bad luck doomed his teams’ playoff runs annually, but Paul has been an advanced stats hero and fringe MVP candidate since he hit the league out of Wake Forest.
He has the highest offensive rating of any perimeter player ever. He ranks in the top 10 in NBA history in PER, Win Shares and Box Plus/Minus. He’s deathly allergic to turning the ball over. A dynamo to the hardest of hardcore fans, Paul has never gotten the flowers he’s been properly due from the sport worldwide.
There’s a section of online basketball fandom that remembers “CP-NEVER-BEEN-TO-ROUND-3” jokes. The memes persist for a guard who’s yet to reach the pinnacle of team sports. Maybe the gif of Paul sarcastically laughing along before turning away in anger will sum up CP3’s battle against his career-long hitters by the end of the month.
In a basketball culture where rings matter above all else, a Finals win from Paul and the Phoenix Suns will have CP3’s name written in Sharpie next to the sport’s inner-circle Hall of Famers.
A championship for Phoenix elevates Paul beyond the Stocktons and Nashes and Kidds in the point guard hierarchy. It’ll be a group of Magic Johnson, Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson and Paul himself. The order depends on how much sleep someone got the night before and how strong their morning coffee was, but that is the pantheon Paul will be immortalized in, if the Suns capture the title.
This type of championship run is reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. Everything broke right for that Mavericks team in a league that was seeing the fall of the Kobe Bryant Lakers and on the cusp of the Heat’s Big 3 dominance. What followed was a mesmerizing postseason from a guy in his 30s who solidified his place as a Hall of Famer long ago, but catapulted himself to another pantheon. That’s eerily similar to what we’re seeing with Paul’s Suns.
In a moment where the league has had its most wide-open Finals race in recent memory, one devoid of superstars like Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, there is still a monumental legacy hanging in the balance.
Chris Paul, a remnant of a time where Vine was the best place for basketball highlights, is illustrating for the TikTok generation just how special he’s been for almost two decades.
Shamus Clancy is a freelance writer from Philadelphia. He is a diseased Eagles fan, an emo concert attendee and a loyal follower of the X-Men.