Let me get this out of the way: Chris Paul is the best player ever to wear a Clippers uniform. My time as a diehard fan of the team goes back to the days of World B. Free and Jerome Whitehead, so I think I’m qualified to say that our franchise has never seen anyone like him: an all-time great in his prime, leading the team to an unparalleled stretch of success. I’ve also never enjoyed watching anyone play more. He’s a chess master, a passing savant, a ball-handling wizard, a reliable shooter, a savvy and tenacious defender, and—OKC meltdown notwithstanding—a clutch player. His Game 7–winner against the Spurs remains the highlight of my 40 years of fandom.
So, as you might imagine, I’ve had a hard time letting go. Yesterday I described my feelings about his impending return to Staples Center thusly:
Ever get dumped and then run into your ex with another guy? This is like that, only the other dude is a cross between Einstein, Clooney, and the Rock and your ex is a cross between Kate Upton, Tina Fey, and the PerfectBlowJob-a-Tron 3000.
Truth be told, I’ve been avoiding watching Houston play all year, as the sight of CP’s 3 beneath a different logo has been too much to bear. I was relieved when he sat out the Clippers’ first game with the Rockets in December. Emotionally, I wasn’t yet ready to handle it.
Last night, however, I steeled my nerve with a couple of Newcastles and some prescription medication ending with the letters “OG” and sat down to face the thing I’ve been dreading even more than the colonoscopy that awaits me when I turn 50: Watching a Chris Paul–led team perform a colonoscopy on the Chris Paul–less Clippers.
But as it turns out, besides the thankfulness I feel for all the great basketball he treated me to over the last six years, I now owe CP3 another debt of gratitude … for making what could’ve been an excruciating breakup a helluvalot less painful. First off, of course, was the fact that, without his floptastic bearded sidekick, he wasn’t actually able to beat our loveable, scrappy new squad. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to let me move on though. He’s still the Point God, after all, and whatever success he ends up having with the Rockets would’ve inevitably left me to wonder what if.
Instead, the great favor he did for those of us in the fanbase who had yet to fully move on was his perfectly timed heel turn, leading his merry band of “hold me back” fake tough guys on a delightfully stupid march through the bowels of Staples Center. With this one simple act of false bravado, he managed to reinforce all the he’s-not-a-true-leader/he’s-a-whiny-little-bitch stereotypes that many of us, despite the mounting evidence, could never bring ourselves to believe. He showed us that, far from being the Upton/Fey/Blowjob-A-Tron we thought we were missing, he’s actually on the wrong side of the Hot/Crazy Mendoza line, the proverbial bullet dodged. And he cemented himself, from now until the day we bury the hatchet for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as the enemy. Perhaps even THE enemy.
Am I going to avoid watching Rockets games anymore? Hell no. Now I get to watch unconflicted, hoping for nothing more than to see Paul and Harden get their punk asses kicked. Am I looking forward to the next time "HOU vs. LAC" appears on the schedule? More than I could’ve ever imagined possible. Is there a downside? Only that if the predicted Western Conference Finals matchup comes to pass, I won’t have anyone to root for. Ich bin ein a Spurs (or Cavs, or Celtics, or Raptors) fan.
So thanks, Chris Paul, for coming through in the clutch one last time. Just when I needed you to be all those things the haters said you were, you coolly stepped up to the line and hit nothing but net. Bang bang, motherf---er indeed. See you on Feb. 28.