Newest Rocket a solid citizen
CHRIS PAUL FAMILY COMMUNITY ROLE MODEL
Guard Chris Paul takes responsibility as a role model seriously.
Robin and Charles Paul saw their son take the stage Friday, as they have so often, to roars from a hefty workday crowd at Toyota Center and chants of his now immediately identifiable nickname, “CP3.” • They have seen him everywhere from a seat on a luminary-filled banana boat to the cold open of the ESPYs, imploring action “to be the change we need.” They have seen him in ubiquitous insurance commercials and smiling on magazine covers. • Yet, as parents so often do, they see Chris Paul now and see the child. They see the same driven, stubborn, magnetic force they knew not to control but to direct, having long since recognized the qualities that make people special.
“I can still see it, I can see it from the standpoint of his toughness, how he likes to grind,” Robin Paul said Friday after her youngest son was introduced in Houston as the latest star the Rockets hope to lead them to a championship. “He was like that as a child. Stubborn. Tough. Real tough. And there is the caring part of him. The giving part. The family part. I can definitely see that in him from childhood all the way to now. He has not changed.”
Chris Paul is this way because he always has been, driven by passions from his need to win to his desire to serve that goes back before anyone outside of Lewisville, N.C., had heard his name. But in a way, it goes back more than that, to the grandfather, PaPa Chili, who was his “best friend”; the older brother, C.J., who was his inspiration, and the parents who could point to the qualities so recognizable around the NBA that were on display before he was born.
“I was playing in an industrial league,” Charles Paul said. “Robin had to come out on the court to get me. She was eight months pregnant with Chris. She came out on the court and said, ‘You shouldn’t act like that.’ Now, when Chris used to do that, she said, ‘Just like his daddy.’
“He was tough. That’s why I started coaching him. He and his brother would be down in the basement playing. They were fighting all the time. I told Robin, ‘I know I’m going to have to coach that one because he’s going to be fighting everybody.’ I could see it when he was young. Tough. Wanting to be as good as his bother. Getting mad at me. Talking to his mom.”
Keeping him grounded
But Paul is not the way he always has been because he has no reason or ability to change. He is rewarded for the qualities so entrenched.
But he keeps Lewisville and that extended family within reach. They keep him grounded, he said. Athletes and other celebrities often have family with them to force humility and share success. But more than that, it’s how it has always been even before Robin from Lewisville’s south side met Charles from the east side at Dreamland Park Baptist Church and their youngest son began doing all he could to have the family travel in packs.
“My parents still live in North Carolina, but you’ll see a lot of my parents,” Paul said. “Out of 41 home games in L.A., they made more than half. Now that I’m even closer, my parents won’t live here, but it will seem that they do.
“I can’t imagine how many family members will be coming out here to see the games. That’s all I know. Every Christmas I flew all my family members — this past year, I think 40 family members — out to L.A. for the holidays. Trust me, I love to play in the NBA. This is what I do. This is my life. But I also understand at some point, this ball is going to stop bouncing. My family is who is always going to be there.”
His grandfather won’t be. But in ways as ingrained as Paul’s drive, he always is.
Nathaniel Jones closed the Chevron station on a November night, went home and was murdered. Five boys roughly the age of his grandson jumped him, bound him and beat him to death for the cash he would have given them, as he had for so many, if they had only asked.
Two nights later, Paul took the grief that emptied him of everything else to the court, scoring 61 points — one for every year of his grandfather’s life — intentionally air-balling his final free throw before falling into Charles’ arms in tears.
“My grandad was my best friend,” Paul said. “I was a senior in high school. I don’t know if that made me just work harder. But he used to always tell me, ‘Chris, I work so hard because I can’t work for nobody.’ He was the spiritual foundation for our entire family. When he got murdered, I took on that responsibility. I didn’t that day, but I think I worked so hard in order so someday I could take on that responsibility.”
A natural team leader
He was drawn to the role the way teammates reach for lob passes. Some people play point guard; others are point guards in everything they do. He wasn’t just class president his senior year, when he was, of course, also homecoming king; he was class president all four years at West Forsythe High School. He was not just his team’s player representative; he is the NBA Players Association president. He does not just have an AAU team or a foundation; he and the family run them.
When Paul signed his contract with the Clippers, he arranged a dinner in Los Angeles, invited that extended family, allowing no help from friends, family or staff. He told them a time and place, and when they arrived, he handed out notebooks with one word on the first page: “More.”
“That was for everybody,” he said. “We always say we’re too tired. We can’t do this. We can’t do that. But there’s still kids out there in underserved communities not getting the same things that kids get on the other side of town. That was my message to everybody in that room. Don’t settle for less. Do more.
“There is a bigger calling for some of us than just making jump shots. Right now, my passion is to try to level the playing field for some of these kids in underserved communities, especially with technology.”
Always striving to succeed
Yet as much as Paul said he is driven by his causes and as much as he remains devoted to his family as he was taught to be, he said his hunger for the remaining accomplishment of his career is greater than ever.
He would play a pickup game at Root Memorial Square Park across from Toyota Center as if a Game 7. “Oh, absolutely,” he said. But he said there is room in all those passions for the pursuit of a championship that has eluded him.
His life, he said, is about more than that. But he said it is really all about striving for more, never satisfied when more is possible.
“It doesn’t matter,” Paul said. “I don’t care if it’s Connect 4. I don’t care if it’s tic-tack-toe. I want to win. I want to win. Trust me. Oh absolutely, I want a championship. I’ve always been that way. Always.”
Some things don’t change. Some people make sure they are who they have always been, only more so.
New Rockets guard Chris Paul makes no bones about his desire to win an NBA championship with his new team. Paul, 32, is on his third NBA team and his competitive spirit is well known around the league.
Chris Paul’s brother C.J., left, and his mother Robin can relate stories of Chris’ competitive fire and toughness even at an early age. Chris Paul, right, always wanted to be as good as his older brother.