Nothing defines an elite athletes’ career more than championships.
Naturally, stats will always contribute to the resumes of these athletes as well but fans and the players themselves will agree that winning a championship has both its numerical and sentimental value. In a nutshell, there’s a certain ring to being known as a winner.
And for Chris Paul, whose numbers over a 16-year career speak for themselves, winning an NBA championship is the final hurdle he has been itching to accomplish.
Paul remains two wins away from an NBA title, but is only a game away from seeing his championship aspirations (at least for this season) fade away after the Milwaukee Bucks clinched three straight wins over the Phoenix Suns.
Paul’s struggles in these NBA Finals have been evident, as he has averaged 3.6 turnovers in five games. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.44 is almost half of his 2021 playoff ratio of 4.15, and it reflects how his playmaking took a hit considering how the Bucks valued that more than his own offensive game. The spillover effects of his passing have been more damaging to Milwaukee and the Suns’ previous opponents especially considering how it adds layers to the Phoenix offense that make it doubly harder to defend.
While the four-time NBA assists leader did have just one turnover in Game 5, it was foul trouble that hounded him instead as he ended the game with five. Part of this could be attributed to how he has been an easy target on defense considering his physical limitations. The Bucks have made him a frequent target of switches and utilize screens to wear him down on the defense. Certainly, this has got to have an effect on someone who has played more than 1,218 regular and postseason games.
Finding his own shot, however, was never a problem as he currently averages 21 points on 54.32 percent shooting. In fact, it was only in Game 4 where Paul had more shot attempts (13) than points (10). His go-to midrange jump shot has been as reliable as ever, but it hasn’t produced the same effect as that of his passing.
As to what to pull off consecutive wins remains a question better answered by how Paul, head coach Monty Williams, and the rest of the Suns will execute their game plan for Game 6. Devin Booker will have to answer the call as well, but it’s Paul that has to rally the troops and get everyone else involved. The 10-time All-NBA member has also been dealing with a litany of injuries in this postseason alone and as he enters game number 90 in the 2020-2021 season, the wear-and-tear of this campaign might be catching up to him.
A finals loss for Paul would be a tough one to swallow, but his postseason legacy is already littered with come-from-behind losses, many of which occurred during his stint with the Los Angeles Clippers. Coming so close only to fall short will once again become the narrative to surround the North Carolina native, who has seen many a postseason disappointment. The countless playoff exits and the injuries that befell him during crucial stretches in the playoffs are what especially endeared him to fans who wanted to see him win that elusive NBA title. A loss in these finals after holding a 2-0 lead would be more tragic than disappointing.
How this affects the 11-time all star’s legacy remains subjective, considering that at this point of his career, Paul is already being discussed along with the likes of Magic Johnson, John Stockton, and Oscar Robertson. Stockton himself has had numerous finals disappointments but it has never left him out of the discussion of the league’s best point guards of all time.
Legacies are a tricky debate, but the consensus with Paul is that whether or not he finishes his career without an NBA title, the Point God is an all-time great. He’s a sure-fire first-ballot hall of famer, with success having accompanied him even on the international level. That missing NBA championship, however, will stick out like a sore thumb.
In this day and age, where Father Time continues to be tested, Chris Paul has a chance to continue to write his legacy and it’s not without its risks. To him, however, the opportunity to do so is much better than staying on the sidelines watching others do so.