If the family took a trip to Atlanta, it wasn’t just so Chris could see Michael Jordan play against the Hawks. Visits to The King Center, the largest repository in the world of primary source materials on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the American civil rights movement, and to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was a co-pastor, were incorporated into the excursion. When Chris traveled to Tennessee for an Amateur Athletic Union basketball game, his parents took him to the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, where King was assassinated in 1968.
“Our black children need to know where we all come from, the struggles that were made and the reason why they are able to do the things that they are today,” Robin says. “Somebody had to pave the way for them.”
While Chris says, “What [King] did was unbelievably impactful,” in the next breath he points to those near and dear to him for their role in shaping him. “My parents are my model for everything that I do in life, other than basketball,” he says. “They are the blueprint, the way they worked and provided for me and my brother.”
He credits Nathaniel Jones, his maternal grandfather, for teaching him about the importance of family. Chris and CJ worked summers at Jones Chevron, opened in 1964 as North Carolina’s first African-American-owned service station. Chris considered his granddad, affectionately known as Papa Chili, his best friend. The day after Chris, then a high school senior, signed with Wake Forest in November 2002, five teenagers attacked the 61-year-old Jones as he unloaded groceries in his driveway, bound his wrists, duct-taped his mouth and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped. All for his wallet.
The day after his grandfather’s funeral, Chris, who had never scored more than 39 points in a game, paid tribute by scoring 61 points, one point for each of Papa Chili’s years, in a high school game. Then he intentionally missed a free throw so he would not have 62 points. At that point, he decided his night was over. He voluntarily left the game, went to the bench, collapsed in his parents’ arms and broke down.
The first task of the CP3 Foundation, formed the same year Chris was drafted, was refurbishing a basketball court in Winston-Salem and naming it after his grandfather. The foundation also provides academic and athletic scholarships to Wake Forest for students from Forsyth County in Jones’ name.
A Southern gentleman who calls women “ma’am,” Chris is unfailingly courteous and a breath of fresh air in the world of professional athletics. He lives in a Bel-Air home previously owned by singer Avril Lavigne, but every summer he returns home to spend time with family and friends. Married to his college sweetheart, Jada, Chris has regular date nights with his wife, who is also from Winston-Salem. When it was time for his 10-year high school reunion, Chris not only attended, he also helped plan it — a tradition for the senior-class president and not one Chris would shun just because of his stature.