Every athlete has that one family member who's their biggest fan, someone who lives their wins and losses as if they were on the court with them. For Chris Paul, it was his grandfather. If Chris were playing, his grandfather would close the service station he was running and tell his customers he has to go to watch the game.
The college selection day is a significant moment every year, players picking which team to play for. When they announce their decision, players put on one of the hats on the table in front of them. For Chris and his grandfather, this was more than a TV gimmick - Chris was putting on his grandfather's hat. That was one of the happiest days in their family.
“It gives me cold chills when I think back to it now. That was the last time we were all together: me, my husband, both of my boys and my dad.”
Robin Paul (Chris's mother)
The very next day, the family would get news that would change everything. Chris's grandfather was murdered in front of his home. After saying their goodbyes, it was time to go back to life. Chris didn't feel like playing if his grandfather wasn't going to be there. Then his aunt suggested something before his next game.
“The first thought was, 'How can I go out there on the court, knowing my grandad's not there?' and my aunt mentioned before I went to the Parkland game 'How about 61 points for your grandad?' and I just thought that would be lovely.”
Chris didn't think it was possible, but the idea of it motivated him to go and play. He played his natural game, involving everyone and sharing the ball. Then, within the natural flow of the game, Paul scored 24 points in the second quarter. Without anyone, including his parents, knowing what Chris planned, he decided 61 is happening.
“This was one of the times when I don't care what kind of defense you played, who you put in front of me. There's no way you were going to stop me.”
That moment helped Chris and his family heal and honor his grandfather in the best possible way. Paul knew his biggest fan was up in heaven, smiling down on him full of pride.