Coming into this year’s playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James imposed a media ban on himself so that he could focus on helping to bring the city of Cleveland its first championship in a very long time. When the Los Angeles Clippers topped the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 on Saturday night however, LeBron was so moved by the gutsy and clutch performance of point guard Chris Paul that he decided to use his wife’s cell phone to call Paul and tell him how amazing he is.
“I told him don’t say nothing, you’re not allowed to reply, you’re not allowed to say anything,” James said. “I told him how amazing he was and how great he was and I hung up on him, I haven’t spoken to him since.”
Rest assured that in Los Angeles everyone knows how important Chris Paul is to the Clippers. Just ask team owner Steve Ballmer, who can barely contain his excitement at the best of times when his team is succeeding on the court, and his face turned extra red on Saturday every time Paul made a big play. Of course we’re all Ballmer here and there, but even Paul himself knows how important he is to the team and after the game on Saturday; he seemed extra emotional about the fact his club had just beaten the defending NBA champions.
CP3 has undoubtedly been one of the best point guards in the NBA from the moment he stepped on an NBA floor out of college, and this past season he averaged over 19 points and 10 assists per game for the second season in a row. More than just putting up personal statistics, Paul’s arrival to Los Angeles helped to change the culture and the future outlook of a Clippers franchise that had been one of the worst teams in the league for the better part of 20 years. That’s one of the ironic parts about the NBA nixing a trade that originally had Paul in a Lakers uniforms; the fact that it’s now the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers and not the Clippers who are one of the worst teams in the league.
If anyone still needs proof that the Clippers are for real, look at what the team did in Game 1 of its second round series against the Houston Rockets in Houston’s building no less. Paul sat out the game because of his injured hamstring and teammates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan stepped up to fill the void, topping a Rockets team who had just finished sweeping the Dallas Mavericks. Griffin in particular carried the way, putting together his second career playoff triple double, pouring in 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. It was a performance most people would expect to get from a guard like Paul, and one couldn’t help but notice the level of inspired play in the Clippers with the teams floor general rooting them on from the sidelines.
It’s safe to say that the team’s new-found postseason swagger comes from more than just the fact that the team beat the out the heavyweight champion Spurs; it comes from the team’s quarterback putting together a heart and soul effort to lead the way, even if he had to do it on one leg. That drive and determination is exactly what earns you a phone call from LeBron James.
LeBron, as a student of the game and a representative of the players he faces off against on any given night saw what we all saw this past weekend and let Paul know about it. And any player knows that winning a championship goes far beyond the league’s MVP race, all-star votes or any other form of individual recognition. It’s about showing up when your team need you the most. Basketball is a team game after all, and while it seems these days that the NBA may be short on players who aren’t all about themselves, the ironic part is that putting your team first is what gets you recognition from the greatest individual talents in the basketball world.
At least in the eyes of LeBron and Clippers fans everywhere.