The Time I Hooped with Chris Paul
It was the summer of 2010, and I was an intern with ProCamps, an events company that produces youth camps for most of the nation’s top athletes. Since it was my second summer interning with them, I had learned the ropes so they gave me additional responsibilities for my second go-round.
I was in charge of driving all the camp equipment from headquarters in Cincinnati, OH to where ever the next camp was happening. I was also the Assistant Camp Director, helping to make sure that everything ran smoothly an that all cones, jerseys, balls, whistles, etc. were where they needed to be.
This was my last trip of the summer. The last leg of 6000+ miles of driving that I did during my internship. We left Cincinnati headed for New Orleans to do a camp with then-Hornet guard Chris Paul. We would leave there and head to Orlando, FL for a camp with then-Magic center Dwight Howard before returning back to Cincinnati.
We had removed the seats from the back of the cargo van so that everything would fit meaning that only the driver and passenger seats remained. We had three people on this trip though: Jake, Adam and myself. So we brought along a beanbag chair and centered it behind the two front seats and rotated periodically who occupied it. TOPPS, the trading card company, was one of our sponsors so we opened up stacks of basketball cards along the way and traded them amongst ourselves for entertainment. Once we got to Tulane University in New Orleans, though, we were all business.
As with most events-based jobs, the hours before and after were spent setting up and breaking down equipment. This particular camp was at the college’s recreation center so there were people lifting weights and running laps the whole time.
The camp went well. Hundreds of kids showed up to meet, and learn from, Chris Paul, including one of Lil Wayne’s kids who CP pointed out to me personally.
By the end of the camp, we had broken down everything but Chris was still there.
“Yall want to run?” He asked.
In basketball talk, that means do you want to play.
We broke up teams by age: everyone over 25 on one team, and everyone under on another. I was on the younger, inferior team. The older team consisted of Chris, his college teammate at Wake Forest Justin Gray, the ProCamps CEO Gregg Darbyshire, Prasco CEO Chris Arrington and one of the lead trainers traveling with us that summer named Ted.
The old dudes ran all over us that day. Despite Paul being an NBA All-Star point guard, Justin was a sharpshooter taking a break from his professional career in Europe, Gregg had played at Miami University (OH), Ted was stronger than everyone, and Arrington, the oldest of the group, was sneaky quick with a surprising basketball IQ.
I had seen Chris Paul sling the ball around as if it were on a yo-yo many times on TV but seeing in person, and trying to stop it, was a whole new challenge. But that’s not what I remember most from that run.
There was one play where our team somehow got a steal and I released up the right sideline for a fast break. Chris Paul was still coming up court, standing somewhere around the three-point line and Gregg wasn’t far behind him. I got the ball.
I looked toward the basket and CP3 was standing right in front of me. In the back of my mind, I wanted to pull the ball out and wait for the rest of my team to get down the court. But a larger part of me wanted to try to score, so that’s what I did.
I dribbled at CP3 with the ball in my right hand and did an in-and-out move with the ball as if I was setting him up for a crossover. I didn’t think that was a good move though (I had seen him pick the pockets of players much better than me), so I kept the ball in my right hand and proceeded to drive past him.
Now, full disclosure, Paul was coming off of a knee surgery, so I don’t think he gave as much effort as he would have if it were an NBA game, but he made a stab at the ball and missed. I then headed to the basket where Gregg, at six-foot-seven, was timing up his jump to meet me in the air.
We left the ground at around the same time and I just barely finessed the ball around his outstretched hand and scored a layup.
So, yeah, I scored on Chris Paul.
That was our only game, though. We lost and word had traveled to the Tulane men’s basketball team who trickled in to form their teams and take on the pro. I did get back on the court a few games later when one of the locals picked me up as their fifth player, but, after that, the run was over.
I helped Jake and Adam pack up the rest of our equipment in the van before heading back to the hotel, memories of (sorta) scoring on an NBA All-Star fully intact.