Guard Honors Grandfather With Scoring Outburst
Nathaniel Frederick Jones owned a gas station. He would tell his grandson that he couldn't work for anyone else and have them tell him he couldn't see them play ball.
Chris Paul used to work at the gas station. He had a unique relationship with his granddad. "My granddad was my best friend," Paul said. "I talked to him everyday. I don't think anybody was as proud of me and my accomplishments as much as my granddad."
On a Friday night, Jones was leaving his job when a group of boys murdered him. The senseless act devastated a community and a family. Chris Paul figured there was no better way to honor his granddad than with his play on the court.
"Before the game my heart was racing because I knew I wanted to do something special for him. The hardest thing was to get back on the court and play. My family told me to be strong and that he wanted me to play."
And play he did.
It must have felt like a Walt Disney movie inside the gym when Paul's team beat Parkland. The little guard who led the Kappa Magic to the 2002 AAU National Championship, did something much more important than win the AAU MVP trophy: he honored his granddad.
Paul had 59 points late in the fourth quarter. A driving bucket increased his total to 61 points and that's where it would stay. Paul scored as many points as years his granddad lived. It was his tribute to a man who had given him so much. He was fouled on the play and went to the line where he decisively shot the free throw straight out of bounds.
For a brief moment, Chris Paul was able to give a grieving, tight-knit family a rare moment of joy. "I prayed about it," Paul said. "My aunt mentioned something about trying to score 61 to honor him but I didn't think I could do it. But as the game went on, I thought I could."
David Gellatt, one of Paul's teammates, helped him accomplish the feat. "I was so tired and he kept telling me that I was going to do it. He was with me the night I found out [about my granddad]."
Chris Paul has already and will continue to do amazing things in his basketball career. You'll probably see him in the 2003 McDonald's Game and later leading Wake Forest to ACC wins. But, it may be hard to top what he did in honor of his best friend. Nathaniel Jones won't get to see his grandson play again. Deep down, Chris Paul knows that and it's probably what will continue to drive him and shape him into a special person and player. But for now, Paul isn't ready to accept his grandfather's passing.
"I just keep thinking that he's out of town."
Maybe he is out of town, but he stopped by for one special night to be with his grandson again.