Chris Paul and the Tales of Yesteryear

Published: February 15, 2014

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

The NBA is graced with magnificent athletes- guys who can do things that most of us can only dream of doing. Players who can windmill dunk, hoist 3s from ungodly distances, throw full-court outlet passes from a standstill, etc. But like sports at any level, what they can do is relative, and make no mistake, everyone in the NBA is an elite athlete. But there are a select few who are the cream of the crop- the elite of the elite. These basketball geniuses can see things on the floor that we can’t see from our pretty camera views on TV.

Chris Paul was that kind of player for New Orleans. The spectacular was always a dribble away with Paul, who carved up defense after defense with ease. He wasn’t surrounded by an elite supporting cast, but that didn’t matter: any game could turn into his show if he wanted it to, and often, that was exactly what happened. And his presence was not limited to the court: Paul’s magic extended to the community, where he was an active presence and a role model for many.

But the franchise couldn’t keep up with Chris Paul, and a few seasons ago, it became abundantly clear that his future lay outside the Crescent City. The trade rumors circulated and the writing was on the wall. After the trade that wasn’t, it was announced that Paul would be sent to the Los Angeles Clippers on December 15, 2011. The CP3 era was done and the Hornets’ future was mired in uncertainty.

Chris Paul is now back in New Orleans, but for All-Star Weekend, and what felt like forever ago now feels like yesterday. National stories are popping out, one after one, about the nixed Lakers trade, his love of New Orleans, his alleged tears upon being traded to the Clippers, and now, about how he isn’t sure if he would’ve left in free agency had the then-Hornets not traded him.

Bologna. I have no clue whether Paul actually cried when he was traded. I believe that he loved New Orleans- truly, I do. But Paul pushed his way out of New Orleans: he was just smart enough to let other people do the public speaking for him. It wasn’t a secret that he wanted to leave. And you know what? That’s okay.

Many fans expect loyalty. They expect their favorite players to stick with bad franchises through thick and thin, as if the city, franchise, and its players consummated a lifetime marriage upon the signing of a contract. But that’s not how it works. The NBA is a business, and players/franchises do things that are in their best interests. It takes a spectacular person to stay with a franchise through the horrible times, but that doesn’t mean that a player who doesn’t is a bad one. In the words of Milton Friedman, “self-interest is not myopic selfishness.”

See, it’s unfair. Many of us expect players to stay loyal to us, yet we boo when teams are in a slump. For me, I write articles about how Player X hasn’t been playing well or how Player Y should be traded because of the magnitude of his contract. I yell at the TV when we turn the ball over and I scream like a banshee when Anthony Davis does something spectacular. Such is the life of a fan.

Chris Paul was a positive force for the city and the franchise for a long time. I am writing this piece to find the middle ground, a place where we can appreciate the wonderful things he did on the court and off of it while remembering that our divorce, while publicly civil, was still bitter. So don’t canonize him and don’t condemn him: look back upon the rosy years, but keep your distance, and realize that Chris Paul is no longer the Mayor of New Orleans. The key to the city lies in the hands of a man with gangly limbs and a furry brow.


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