For Chris Paul and the Suns, another season has ended in disappointment.
After losing in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns entered the 2021-22 season on a mission to get back to that stage, winning a franchise-record 64 games to enter the 2022 postseason with the league’s best record.
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Dominant as the Suns looked throughout the regular season, they failed to make it out of the Western Conference Semifinals, suffering a blowout Game 7 loss to Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
The playoff loss puts an end to Paul’s 17th season, a year in which the 37-year-old still looked to be in peak form. In addition to being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in October, the 2021-22 season saw Paul earn the 12th All-Star selection of his career and capture the NBA’s assist title for the fifth time in his career.
To top it all off, an 11th All-NBA selection very well could be on the way.
With all that Paul has accomplished and continues to accomplish, an NBA title still eludes him. After this latest loss, where does Paul stand among the all-time greats at his position?
Let’s talk about Paul’s all-time status.
Paul has long been considered one of the greatest point guards the game has ever seen, a point that was solidified by his selection to the 75th Anniversary Team. In earning a selection, Paul’s name has been firmly placed alongside the likes of Bob Cousy, Stephen Curry, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas, among others.
Of the above names, all but Nash, Paul and Stockton won an NBA title during their respective careers, but that doesn’t necessarily place them at the bottom of the list.
Somehow, Paul’s legacy is both complicated and fairly straightforward at the same time — it’s hard to pick five point guards that have played the game at a higher level, but postseason shortcomings (and misfortunes) cause his resume to lack a certain punch.
But don’t let shortcomings and a run of bad luck distract you from the achievements.
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There’s The Chris Paul Effect, in which he’s improved every single team that’s acquired him. Paul has played for five NBA franchises and has led four of them to franchise records in wins, including the Suns this past season.
There are also the career numbers, as Paul became the first player in NBA history to score over 20,000 points and dish out over 10,000 assists before LeBron James joined him later on this year.
And then there are the accolades, as Paul has 12 All-Star selections, 10 All-NBA selections, nine All-Defensive Team selections and a second-place MVP finish, which came at the age of 22 in his third season, no less.
Paul’s list of achievements rivals most, but what sets him apart is his longevity, with him still playing at an All-NBA level 17 years into his career, something fans and pundits both praise from James.
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So, where does the lack of a title come into play?
At this point in his career, there’s nothing Paul could do to harm his legacy — he may have missed out on his shot to be the greatest point guard of all time, but he’s done enough to be firmly placed within the top seven, if not the top five.
That said, he’s reached the point where a title wouldn’t move the needle much at all, either. Kidd, who was mentioned above as an all-time great, captured his title with the Mavericks while excelling in a role in Year 17, but his legacy is defined by leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances as the guy.
When Paul was the guy, he led franchises to new heights, something he continues to do even in a 1a/1b situation with Devin Booker in Phoenix.
With the 2021-22 season coming to a close, Paul now has three years remaining on the four-year, $120 million contract he signed with the Suns that keeps him under contract through the 2024-25 season.
Should Paul play out the life of this contract before mulling retirement, his career would come to a close at the age of 40 after 20 seasons in the league, but he and the Suns will have three more shots at a title until then.
Whether or not the 2022 NBA Playoffs were Paul’s last legitimate shot remains to be seen, but with or without the title, Paul will be remembered as an all-time great.
At the end of the day, championships are a team accomplishment and as an individual, Paul has made every team around him better. What more could you ask for from an all-time great?