Wake Forest had three alumni participating in the NBA bubble restart in Orlando, Florida. Ish Smith played for the Washington Wizards, Jaylen Hoard for the Portland Trail Blazers, and Chris Paul for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While each shined in his own way—Smith as the starting point guard for the Wizards and Hoard having the opportunity to guard LeBron James and Anthony Davis in his rookie season—it was Paul who perhaps shown brighter than any other player in the bubble. Not so much for his work on the court, but for his advocacy and leadership off the court.
Prior to this season, pundits gave the Thunder a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs (see graphic below) after they traded away Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Paul and several future draft picks.
Nothing but respect for Chris Paul and the Thunder.— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) September 3, 2020
Hell of a ride from this atrocious prediction... pic.twitter.com/L4bf1HQMaa
Not only did the Thunder, led by the veteran Paul, make the playoffs; they took the supposedly vastly superior Houston Rockets down to the last seconds of a game 7, and had a chance to upset them with only a few seconds remaining.
In the game 6 win to force a game 7, CP3 had 15 of his 28 points in the 4th quarter and had ZERO turnovers in 40 minutes of action. He made plays like the one below that looked awfully familiar to Deacon fans.
In game 7, Chris became the oldest player in NBA history to record a triple-double in game 7 of a playoff series. He is 35 years old and had 19 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds. While it wasn't enough to lead the Thunder to another victory, the heart and soul Chris displayed were those of a true leader.
But it was off the court where Paul embodied the true spirit of Pro Humanitate.
In the wake of a restart of the season amongst a pandemic and at a time where racial tensions are extremely high, Paul chose to use his platform to promote HBCUs by wearing a different HBCU on his shoes every single night he stepped onto the court.
Salute to @CP3 for every HBCU he repped in the NBA bubble ✊— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) September 3, 2020
Norfolk State pic.twitter.com/nEX1ANfnQA
He also used his platform to speak out against racial injustice and call for equality for all, showing that yes, Black Lives Matter, and not just when they step on the basketball court for the entertainment of fans. He also spoke out about the need to vote and be an active participant in social matters.
.@cp3 speaks truth to power! Jacob Blake’s shooting was unjustifiable. Thank you for using your platform to amplify the message that we need CHANGE in America. Register to vote TODAY! pic.twitter.com/0utxD4Xz53— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) August 25, 2020
From the start of the bubble, Paul has been at the forefront of the issues at hand; speaking freely about the need to arrest the officers who killed Breonna Taylor and how the NBA and its players could use their voices for justice.
“We gonna be down here hooping, but at the same time, we gonna keep [social justice] on the front of everybody’s mind.”@CP3 calls for justice for Breonna Taylor and explains how NBA players are going to make an impact from the bubble. (via @MariaTaylor) pic.twitter.com/vXZUoBiETI— ESPN (@espn) July 26, 2020
During the NBA’s pause of a couple of days in which players decided not to play to protest the killing of yet another unarmed black man, it was Paul who led discussions amongst the players about ways in which they could resume play while still advocating for social justice. His role as the president of the NBA Players’ Association put him in a spot to advocate not only for the players, but for the change that needs to take place.
Powerful statement from NBPA president Chris Paul. pic.twitter.com/31mixkGOKM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 28, 2020
Ultimately, Paul and his team ended up convincing the leagues board of governors to use the league’s arenas as voting sites in the November general elections; along with establishing a social justice coalition and promoting voting information through advertising throughout the remainder of the season.
While the Oklahoma City Thunder may have lost and Chris Paul may have been eliminated from the playoffs as a result, CP3 still came out of the bubble as a true winner. He won by leading not just on the court, but off the court. And his inspiration and leadership off the court matter so much more than any results on the court.
Thank you Chris for being a living example of Pro Humanitate and a great representative of Wake Forest. Go Deacs!