Time and time again, we’re told that injuries are part of the game. And while nearly every franchise and professional athlete can attest to this credo, Phoenix Suns “Point God” Chris Paul’s career has been particularly cruel in this regard.
In 2015, a hamstring injury cost him the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinals. He would return in Game 3, and help push the “Lob City” incarnation of the Los Angeles Clippers to a gritty Game 7, but eventually fell short in his quest to defeat the Houston Rockets. Revisionist history doesn’t exactly bring solace, but one can’t help but wonder how that series would’ve played out had Paul’s hamstring not acted up.
In 2016, the Wake Forest product bounced back with another magnificent regular season, averaging 19.5 points, 10 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. But it was all for naught after the 11-time All-Star fractured his hand in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs. The Portland Trail Blazers then pounced on the wounded Clippers and delivered the coup de grâce, dominating the series 4-2.
In 2017, a healthy Paul gave false hope that the stars had finally aligned. This time, however, it was Blake Griffin who would succumb to injury, suffering a fractured plantar plate of his right big toe in Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Utah Jazz. And we all know how that ended: The Clippers couldn’t match the Jazz’s firepower and would again suffer a humiliating Game 7 defeat—punctuated by a putrid 6-for-19 shooting performance by CP3.
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In 2018, Paul suffered what is easily the most discouraging postseason injury of his otherwise illustrious career. Now a member of the Houston Rockets, his team had achieved the impossible and had the indomitable Golden State Warriors on the ropes in the Western Conference Finals. Heading into Game 6 with a decisive 3-2 series lead, the Rockets were prepared to shock the world. But because fate has a cruel sense of humor, another hamstring injury would spell CP3’s doom. As such, the Rockets got eviscerated by 29 points. Adding insult to injury was Paul’s inability to play in Game 7, which led to the Rockets shitting the bed and missing a record-breaking 27 straight three-pointers.
SPOILER WARNING: The Rockets lost this series, too.
And now, in 2021, the 36-year-old Paul is finally in the best position to become an NBA champion. Steph Curry is nowhere to be found, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be joining him shortly, a hobbled LeBron James was vanquished in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his 18-year career, and his current second-round opponent—the Denver Nuggets—are short their starting point guard and just got wrecked by 25 points.
But because nothing in life comes easy, and history always seems to repeat itself, Paul is also battling a shoulder contusion—a lovely parting gift from LeBron’s Lakers—that threatens to derail the Suns’ postseason hopes. If he can eventually heal up between games and preserve his health, the sky is the limit.
It’s just a matter of whether or not fate, once again, has other plans.