Chris Paul is 36 years old and just 6-feet tall. He was once poison in the NBA — one team gave away its draft picks just to be free from Paul’s contract. Today, having scored 41 points in Game 6 of the NBA semi-finals, Mr. Paul is known as the Point God.
Mr. Paul has led, what the Barometer tries to explain to students, a nonlinear life. He did not go from high school basketball star to college scholarship to the NBA. He played junior varsity basketball in high school. He had been on the varsity team as a bench warmer and went back to JV in order to play more. He went to Wake Forest for two years, and he was drafted into the NBA with a resulting unremarkable career. A decade and one-half later the Phoenix Suns and its ragtag club made a trade and got Mr. Paul. Mr. Paul has done for the Suns what he did for the JV teams — he leads so that others become better.
Michael Jordan carried bitterness around with him after he did not make varsity. Chris Paul saw it as a chance to play more and now, “the best thing that ever happened to me.” They sportscasters call him old. For the court he is ancient. But all those years mean that he has had more time on the court than any other player. He gained experience and calm. Humility from that JV background gives him the moral authority to lead. The Winston-Salem Chronicle described Mr. Paul in a headline about the success of his JV team, “Paul’s leadership, unselfish play set him apart in basketball.”
The linear life follows a pattern previously determined and documented as the path to success and goal achievement. Just because “everybody does it” does not mean it is the right or ethical path as we face ethical dilemmas in our lives. The same principle carries over into life generally. Sometimes the achievement arrives just because you took the road less traveled. The ragtag Suns have been operating at JV for many years, until Chris Paul. He makes everyone around him better.
Once in a great while, sports stories surprise us, pleasantly.