It might be rather difficult to find another successful professional athlete who 10 years after graduating from high school not only attended his high school reunion, but also was in charge of scheduling the event. As president of his senior class in high school – one of three years he served as student body president – this is a responsibility Chris Paul agreed to more than a decade ago and willingly fulfilled.
In addition to his duties as class president at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina, Paul was an honor roll student, maintained a 3.5 grade-point average and was named homecoming king. These accomplishments, in addition to his standout achievements on the basketball court, did not happen by mere chance, but rather as a direct result of embracing principles and ideals about life that he later accredited to his beloved parents and grandfather.
Paul has been contending against steep odds with his basketball career since his youth. Despite athletic skills beyond his years as a high school freshman, his 5-foot stature put him at a substantial competitive disadvantage. Instead of giving up his dream of playing college and professional basketball, Paul made the humbling decision to play junior varsity basketball for his first two seasons at West Forsyth to further develop his game. His hard work and patience paid dividends as he grew 8 inches before his junior year, when he began to garner recognition as a top point guard prospect in the country.
As a junior at West Forsyth, Paul averaged 25.0 points, 5.3 assists and 4.4 steals and made a verbal commitment to play for Wake Forest University, which was located only 13 miles from his childhood home in Lewisville, North Carolina. When everything seemed to finally be falling into place as a reward for Paul’s commitment to excellence, his character and values were tested more seriously than ever before.
Paul’s best friend and No. 1 fan, his grandfather, was found dead after being robbed and severely beaten by a group of teenagers only a day after Paul had signed his official letter of intent to play at Wake Forest. Although still reeling emotionally, Paul was determined to honor his grandfather in the first game of his senior season the very next day. Before the game, Paul’s aunt suggested that he score 61 – one point for each year of his grandfather’s life. Paul accepted the challenge to pay tribute to the man who did not miss a single one of his basketball games.
With 24 points alone in the second quarter, Paul was only two points shy of 61 with several minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Paul then made a difficult layup in addition to drawing a foul. Having already met his goal of scoring 61 points for his grandfather, Paul stepped to the free-throw line and intentionally missed the shot – despite being in reach of the all-time state record of 67 points. This awe-inspiring performance was merely a glimpse of the future greatness Paul would display at the college and professional levels.
In eight professional seasons, Paul has been named NBA Rookie of the Year, seven-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA First Team and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Off the court, Paul has been president of the NBA Players Association and a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. He also founded the CP3 AfterSchool Zone and CP3K Walk for Kids designed to enrich the lives of the younger generation through promoting an active lifestyle.
Certainly, it all started at West Forsyth High School, where he turned tragedy into an inspirational story of hope that was shared across the world. Paul’s focus on academics, participation in student government and dedication to athletics paved the way for his current success as a professional athlete.
Matt Costakis was a 2014 summer intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department. He is a junior at DePauw (Indiana) University studying communications and English writing.