On Tuesday night Chris Paul begins his quest for his elusive title. His Phoenix Suns meet Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals in a fascinating matchup. Dubbed the ‘Point God,’ as one of the greatest Point Guards in league history, the 36 year old’s career has been defined not only for his Hall of Fame career, but also injury. This narrative can be re-written starting Tuesday. His comeback story has been nothing short of impressive. For him to comeback from being traded by Houston, leading a rebuild effort in Oklahoma, to now leading a young Suns team to their first finals since 1993 is remarkable. Chris Paul has re-written his legacy with this title run.
Chris Paul’s New Legacy
Career Legacy To Date
On the Mount Rushmore of all-time point guards even without a ring, Paul’s career successes have him as one of greatest to ever play the game. Statistically, he’s now joined the 10,000 assist club, putting him fifth all time in assists. Most recently passing Magic Johnson in this elite club. He’s still likely to pass Mark Jackson and Nets head-Coach Steve Nash for 3rd all-time before his career ends. Furthermore, He’s also an 11-time All-star, and fifth all-time in steals. Against Denver, he became the first player in NBA history to record 15+ points, 15+ assists and zero turnovers three times in the playoffs.
He’s one of the smartest players to ever play the game, and his court vision and mid-range game is as lethal at 36 as when he first broke into the league. However, for all the accolades, one thing that continues to allude him is a championship ring and an injury narrative which has plagued him until now.
Injuries and Bad Luck Defined His Legacy Until Now
When looking at his career to date, Paul has been significantly unlucky in his playoff career prior to this season. After several near playoff misses for the New Orleans Hornets, the scintillating guard took his talents to Los Angeles. Dubbed the ‘Lob City era’ Clippers, after his exciting partnership with Blake Griffin, they were seemingly destined for a title. However, they never got out of the second round. In 2015, Paul injured his hamstring losing crushingly in seven games to the Houston Rockets. In the following year, he broke his hand in the first round against Portland.
Arguably, his greatest chance of winning a title came when he was traded to the Houston Rockets to pair up with superstar James Harden in 2017. This pairing lead them to 65 regular season wins, the best in the NBA. Setting up a collision course with the dynasty Golden State Warriors in his first Conference finals. With the series tied 2-2, Paul injured his hamstring at the tail-end of the Rockets taking a 3-2 series lead. They went on to lose games 6 and 7 without him. Many observers feel that had he not hurt his hamstring, that Rockets team would have gone on to win the title that year.
Redefining His Legacy
Paul redefined his legacy starting with his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Reportedly forced out of Houston due to his relationship with Harden, he joined a Thunder team in full tear-down mode. Due to their trading franchise stars Paul George and Westbrook, they seemed destined for the lottery. However, his subsequent season was nothing short of remarkable.
Paul’s contract was seen as an albatross due to his age and injuries going into that year. However, showing what a true Hall of Fame player he is, he took the unfancied Thunder to the NBA playoffs with a Most Valuable Player caliber year. In fact he pushed Harden’s Rockets all the way that first round series with his clutch play. That season changed his perception in the league to that of a franchise-changing leader. His mentoring of the young Thunder team earned him a trade to the Phoenix Suns who felt he was the missing piece to their young team. They were right.
Comeback with the Phoenix Suns
With the ‘Point god’ leading them, the Suns finished second in the Western Conference with 51 wins this year. With his tough leadership style, its paid dividends for young stud Deandre Ayton. For instance, Ayton credited Paul’s leadership as ‘the best thing that happened to my career.’ Also, Paul’s backcourt partnership with star scorer Devin Booker has to be among the very best and dynamic in the league. While Paul’s demanding leadership may have ruffled feathers in the past, it’s catapulted this young Suns team to their first finals appearance since 1993.
It seems fitting that in the clincher that sent the Suns to the NBA finals, Paul dropped a historic 41 points putting this team on his back. Having overcome injuries himself in this playoff series, Paul battled through nagging injuries throughout these playoffs. Beating the defending champion Lakers, white washing Denver and finish off the Clippers. Paul’s redemption story has him on the brink of a championship.
Chris Paul and a Changed Legacy
Paul is a born winner and is a top 30 player of all-time even without having a ring to his name. His preparation and his determination to succeed has propelled him through some very difficult stages in his career. By tailoring his game from that of dynamism, to his latter years as a cognitive floor-general, leader, and mid-range specialist, he’s now extremely efficient on the court. Overcoming injuries and near-misses has defined his playoff career to date, but this can all change over the course of this finals series. While Giannis and the Bucks will be a tight and fascinating match-up, few can bet against Chris Paul leading his team to a title. A potentially deserving title for one of the greatest to ever play the game.