NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Trip to Hall of Fame resonates with Paul – LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer with the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award for his work with his organization, the Chris Paul Foundation. Initially, Paul was hesitant to come out to Springfield, Mass., for the event, but since then has drastically changed his tone about both the Hall itself and has a newfound respect for his the game at large. Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com has more:
Chris Paul admits it — he viewed his trip to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last week as a bit of a nuisance.
It wasn’t the first time the Hall had reached out, but it was the first time the nine-time All-Star finally acquiesced.
“They ask,” Paul conceded to ESPN.com, “but you think, ‘I’m busy’ or ‘Oh no, it’s too far,’ or ‘I have too much other stuff going on.”’
During his tour of the birthplace of basketball, Paul was moved by the stories of African-American pioneers who were banned from hotels and restrooms that welcomed their white teammates. He delighted in locating the plaque of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, the legendary African-American college coach at Winston-Salem State, just miles from where Paul grew up.
It prompted a reflective Paul to deliver one of the most memorable and impassioned speeches from an elite player who wasn’t actually being inducted.
“Today was my first day having the opportunity to come here, and it was kind of touching,” Paul told the audience upon accepting his award. “If not for this game, I am not here. If not for this game, my family is not in the situation we are in. And so I’m grateful for this game and what it has done for me and my family …”
With his voice breaking, and tears welling, Paul pressed on.
“It really hit me today being here around all the history that we take so much for granted,” he said. “And I know I do [that] a lot of times.”
Before long, as Paul shared the story of how he pressured his parents to buy him a pair of Allen Iverson‘s signature shoes, he had Iverson — a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee — weeping, too.
“To be here on his special day … man, this game has taken me places I never imagined,” Paul said. “Guys, you gotta come see this, because it’s bigger than any of us.”
“I haven’t never been here before, and as I walked in I actually felt bad about it,” Paul said. “It hit home today, in a big way, what this game has done for me, and the people I love. You walk in and you see all the history and you realize, ‘I need to support this.’
“I’m one of those people who, my wheels get turning. You want other people to see this. You think, ‘Maybe it would be better if this was in New York or L.A.,’ but that doesn’t make sense. The game was invented here. There is where it has to stay.”
Paul, who is also president of the players’ union, said he plans to go back to his NBA brethren and encourage them to see for themselves how the pioneers of the game paved the way — and to spur them to give back.
“Every experience is different for every person, but this place? It got me,” Paul said. “I can’t wait to bring my son.”