Christopher Emmanuel Paul (born May 6, 1985) is an American professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, an NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award, two Olympic gold medals, and led the NBA in assists four times and steals six times. He has also been selected to ten NBA All-Star teams, eight All-NBA teams, and nine NBA All-Defensive teams.
Paul's brother, C.J., played college basketball at Hampton University and University of South Carolina Upstate. In 2004, they played against each other when Wake Forest had a preseason exhibition with USC-Upstate. C.J. now works as Chris's personal manager. Paul is close friends with football player Reggie Bush; the two lived in the One River Place complex in the New Orleans Central Business District while Bush was playing for the Saints. They also shared a personal chef.
For two weeks early in Paul's sophomore season, Wake Forest was ranked number one in the nation for the first time in school history. In the final game of the year, Paul punched NC State guard Julius Hodge in the groin and received a one-game suspension for the ACC Tournament, an incident that marred Paul's image for a short time. The Demon Deacons again qualified for the NCAA Tournament but suffered a second round upset at the hands of West Virginia. With final averages of 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 2.4 steals per game, Paul was eventually named First Team Consensus All-America, and with a 3.21 grade point average (GPA), he was also named to ESPN's Academic All-America Team. On April 15, 2005, he announced he would be hiring an agent and turning professional. On March 2, 2011, Wake Forest retired his jersey.
Paul was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game in 2007–08, playing in front of his home fans in New Orleans. Behind his leadership, the Hornets were near the top of the Western Conference standings all year, temporarily occupying first place on March 17 following a win against the Chicago Bulls. New Orleans finished the season with a franchise-record 56 wins and the second seed in the West. Paul led the NBA with 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game to go along with 21.1 points per game, finishing second in NBA Most Valuable Player Award voting and being named to his first All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. In his playoff debut, he scored 35 points against the Dallas Mavericks. In Game 2, he set a franchise playoff record with 17 assists. The Hornets defeated the Mavericks in five games, with Paul registering 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists in the final game. New Orleans were eliminated in the next round by the San Antonio Spurs.
Paul was a McDonald's All-American in high school. He attended Wake Forest University for two years of college basketball, where he helped the Demon Deacons achieve their first-ever number one ranking. He was selected fourth overall in the 2005 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, where he developed into one of the league's premier players, finishing second in NBA Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2008. During the 2011 offseason, Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, only for the transaction to be controversially voided by the NBA. Later that summer, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers instead. Behind Paul's playmaking, the Clippers developed a reputation for their fast-paced offense and spectacular alley-oop dunks, earning them the nickname "Lob City". In 2017, he was traded to the Houston Rockets, and helped the team win a franchise-record 65 games in his debut season. He played one more season there before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook on July 16, 2019.
Prior to the start of the 2008–09 season, Paul signed a contract extension with the Hornets worth $68 million. On December 17, 2008, he set the NBA record for consecutive games with a steal at 106. On several occasions, he came within a few steals of recording a quadruple-double, including a 27-point, 10 rebound, 15 assist, and 7 steal game against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 26, 2009. His final averages were 22.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 11 assists, and 2.8 steals per game. Despite Paul's individual accomplishments, New Orleans' record fell from the year before and they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets.
Paul married his college sweetheart, Jada Crawley, on September 10, 2011. Together they have two children, a son born in May 2009 and a daughter born in August 2012. On November 11, 2011, Paul appeared with his family on Family Feud.
In 2010–11, Paul had another injury scare on March 6, 2011, suffering a concussion after colliding with Cavaliers guard Ramon Sessions and being carried off the court in a stretcher. He returned two games later, registering 33 points and 15 assists against the Sacramento Kings. With Paul playing a full season, the Hornets qualified for the playoffs and were matched up with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Paul had a "historically great" performance in the series, contributing 33 points, 14 assists, and 4 steals in Game 1 and 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists in Game 4. His final averages were 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 11.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 54.5 percent shooting. New Orleans were eliminated in six games, and ownership, fearing that Paul would leave the franchise via free agency, began actively pursuing a trade that would provide the team equitable compensation in return for his services.
After a slow start to the 2009–10 season, the Hornets fired coach Byron Scott. Paul stirred up controversy when he announced his displeasure with the move, commenting that team management should have "consulted with me and asked how I felt before it happened." In early February 2010, Paul tore cartilage in his left knee and was sidelined for over a month by surgery, forcing him to miss the All-Star Game. In total, he played in only 45 games and his averages dropped to 18.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 10.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Without Paul, the Hornets struggled, missing the playoffs.
On December 8, 2011, the Hornets agreed to a three-team trade sending Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA, who owned the Hornets at the time, nullified the deal, with commissioner David Stern claiming New Orleans would be better off keeping Paul. The teams involved in the trade attempted to lobby the league to reverse its ruling and reconstruct the deal to no avail. On December 12, the Hornets agreed to a trade sending Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, but the deal broke down after the NBA added additional demands to the original terms. Two days later, the teams finally made the trade, sending Paul and two future second round draft picks to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the Minnesota Timberwolves' unprotected first round pick in the 2012 draft. Upon the deal's completion, Paul announced that he would opt into the final year of his contract and remain in Los Angeles for at least two more seasons.
Paul prefers playing in the half court versus playing up-tempo. He creates scoring opportunities by constantly changing speeds; upon beating his defender one-on-one or shedding him in the pick-and-roll, he will often slow down and box him out, denying him from regaining front side position and forcing the defense to help at all times. His ability to penetrate deep into the paint leads to easy shots for his teammates, and in 2013, he was second in the league in assisted three-pointers. As a playmaker, he is noted for his consistently high assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging just 2.4 turnovers per game over his career. A deft midrange shooter, he is especially proficient from the right elbow, leading the league in shooting percentage from that area in 2015. On defense, he aggravates opponents with active hands and high effort, and has been ranked as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Standing 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall and weighing 175 pounds (79 kg), Paul plays point guard exclusively. His career averages are 18.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.9 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. He has earned All-NBA honors eight times (2008–09, 2011–16), All-Defensive honors eight times (2008–09, 2011–16), and led the NBA in steals six times (2008–09, 2011–14) and in assists four times (2008–09, 2014–2015). In 2013, he was ranked the third-best player in the league by ESPN and Sports Illustrated. In his 2014 NBA preview, ESPN's Kevin Pelton called Paul the league's best point guard, adding, "a title he's held throughout his career when healthy".
Off the court, Paul has served as the National Basketball Players Association president since August 2013. One of the highest-paid athletes in the world, he holds endorsement deals with companies such as Air Jordan and State Farm.
Paul was selected president of the National Basketball Players Association on August 21, 2013, after having served on the executive committee for four years. He was a key figure in the banning of Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA following racist remarks Sterling made in 2014. In one interview, Paul mentioned a possible boycott if Sterling continued to own the team. Paul played a significant role in the election of Michele Roberts as the Executive Director of the Players Association, giving a strong recommendation to the executive committee responsible for filling the position.
In 2014–15, Paul played in all 82 games for the first time in his career, averaging 19.1 points and a league-high 10.2 assists per game. In Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs, he hit a go-ahead shot with a second left to lift the Clippers over the Spurs despite a hamstring injury. The injury forced him to miss the first two games of the next series versus the Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles eventually lost in seven games despite holding a 3–1 series lead. The defeat marked ten consecutive seasons and seven consecutive playoff appearances without a Conference Finals appearance for Paul.
Paul is represented by NBA agent Leon Rose of Creative Artists Agency, who also represents Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, among others. In 2014, Forbes ranked Paul as one of the highest-paid athletes in the world with $24.2 million in earnings including $5.5 million in endorsements. Some of the companies he does business with are Nike and State Farm. For one of the State Farm ad campaigns, he portrayed a fictional twin brother named Cliff Paul.
In 2016–17, Paul missed 21 regular season games due to rest or injury, and averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists, and 5 rebounds in just over 31 minutes per game. At season's end, Paul was not rewarded with an All-NBA honor, marking just the second time he failed to make an All-NBA team since 2008 and the first time in his six years as a Clipper. In the playoffs, Los Angeles was eliminated after their first round series against the Utah Jazz, with Paul averaging 25.3 points, 9.9 assists, 5 rebounds per game over seven games.
On June 28, 2017, Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer, a future first round pick, and cash considerations. In his debut for the Rockets in their season opener on October 17, 2017, Paul had four points on 2-for-9 shooting in a 122–121 win over the Golden State Warriors. Paul sat on the bench down the stretch while the Rockets made their final push, and it was later revealed he was playing through a knee injury. He subsequently missed the next 14 games. He returned to the lineup on November 16 and had 11 points and 10 assists in a 142–116 win over the Phoenix Suns. On December 13, he recorded a then season-high 31 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds in a 108–96 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Two days later, he had 28 points, eight assists, and seven steals to lead the Rockets to their 12th straight victory, a 124–109 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Paul became the first player in NBA history to post 28 points, eight assists, and seven steals in a game against the Spurs. In the previous 10 years, that stat line had been achieved just 10 times—six of those 10 recorded by Paul. He was subsequently named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from Monday, December 11 through Sunday, December 17. It was his 13th career Player of the Week honor and his first since January 2016. On January 10, Paul took 29 shots and finished with a then season-high 37 points in a 121–112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. On January 18, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Paul earned his 1,958th steal, passing Derek Harper to move into 13th place on the NBA's career steals list. On January 26, he scored a season-high 38 points in a 115–113 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. On February 3, he recorded 22 points and 11 assists in a 120–88 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the game, Paul passed Andre Miller (8,624) for ninth place on the career assists list. On February 23, in a 120–102 win over the Timberwolves, Paul passed Allen Iverson for 12th on the NBA's career steals list with 1,984. The Rockets finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed for the first time in franchise history, with a franchise-best 65–17 record.
Paul is a Christian and attends church every Sunday whenever possible. In one interview, Paul commented, "I am so thankful that my parents raised me and C.J. to depend on God's guidance and our faith in Him, and to always be thankful for what we receive." He enjoys bowling and owns a franchise in the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) League called L.A.X. He has hosted and participated in numerous celebrity and youth bowling events as the head of the CP3 Foundation, which benefits programs in Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina, as well as charities in Winston-Salem. In 2018, Paul purchased a minority ownership stake in the Winston-Salem Dash, a minor league baseball team located in his hometown.
On July 8, 2018, Paul signed a four-year, $160 million maximum contract extension with the Rockets. Paul received a two-game suspension early in the 2018–19 season for his involvement in an on-court fight against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 20. Additionally, Paul was fined a total of $491,782 for his role in the fracas. On December 11, he recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 111–104 win over the Trail Blazers. On December 20, he suffered a left hamstring strain against the Miami Heat. He subsequently missed 17 games, returning to action on January 27 against the Orlando Magic. On February 23, he recorded 23 points and a season-high 17 assists in a 118–112 win over the Warriors. On March 10 against the Dallas Mavericks, Paul passed Isiah Thomas (9,061) to move into seventh on the NBA's all-time career assists list. He averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 8.2 assists last season while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three-point range during the 2018–19 season.
On July 16, 2019, the Houston Rockets traded Paul, 2024 and 2026 first round picks, and 2021 and 2025 second round pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
He debuted for the Thunder in a 100–95 loss to the Utah Jazz on October 23, 2019, putting up 22 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. On December 16, Paul recorded a near triple-double, posting 30 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in a 109–106 win over the Chicago Bulls. He also fell just shy of a triple-double on December 29, as he recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists, in a 98–97 win over the defending champion Toronto Raptors. On January 30, 2020, Paul was selected to his tenth All-Star nod, and first since 2016, being named a Western Conference reserve. On February 11, Paul scored a season-high 31 points in a 114–106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.