CHRIS PAUL has transformed the Los Angeles Clippers into winners, but that’s only a small part of who he is. As a point guard, he’s one of the best. As a role model, he’s even better.
Clasping the tiny hand of his 4-year-old son, Christopher, as they make their way around a running track, Chris Paul towers above the surrounding mob of elementary- and middle school children who excitedly walk with the NBA superstar on a warm Saturday morning in Southern California.
“Move your arms,” Chris orders the youngsters within earshot, who do as they are told. Chris then barks orders to a man wearing a red school-district-staff vest to keep the people in front advancing as well. “Somebody has to make sure they keep moving,” Chris says to the staffer.
That somebody is Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers point guard who knows a thing or two about getting people to move. On this particular day, the man whose initials (C.P. ) and jersey number (3) provide the perfect appellation for either an otherworldly basketball star, a Star Wars character — ideal for Hollywood — or both is directing thousands of students on a 3K walk at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The event is part of an annual healthy-living festival Chris’ CP3 Foundation hosts with L.A.’s Best, an after-school enrichment program that serves more than 28,000 children in the city of Los Angeles.
When it comes time to pose for a photograph, Chris takes charge.
“On three, everybody say, ‘exercise,’ ” he commands.
Again, the children do as they are ordered.
That’s the way it is with CP3, who turned the three-ring circus known as the Clippers (true story: Former center Benoit Benjamin once missed a game because he brought only two left sneakers on a 1986 road trip) into a team that won its first division title in franchise history in the 2012-13 season. With Chris continuing to direct the show this season, the Clippers have a legitimate chance to reach the NBA Finals in June. (This despite a separated shoulder Chris suffered Jan. 3 in a game at the Dallas Mavericks. He is expected to make a full recovery and resume play long before the playoffs begin.)