Four more wins. Chris Paul is four more wins away from grabbing his first-ever NBA Championship.
The long-ridiculed narrative regarding Paul’s legacy without a ring could soon be thrown out the window if he and the Phoenix Suns are able to complete their remarkable playoff run with a Larry O’Brien trophy in their hands.
Paul’s 16-year career has already proven he is one of the top point guards of all-time—even without a ring. He has displayed sequences of beautiful basketball over and over again throughout his career.
Before Thursday night’s victory over the Clippers to push the Suns into the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 (!!), Paul’s milestones and accolades already present a good case for him as a top-five point guard of all-time. He’s an 11x All-Star, 10x All-NBA player, the 2005-2006 Rookie of the Year, and has inserted himself in the top five in career assists, as well as steals.
That’s already enough, isn’t it? Not to some critics; however, that changes now that he has entered his first-ever NBA Finals, with his best chance ever to earn a ring.
Paul was swapped in and out of peoples’ top-five point guards list before the 2020-21 season started. However, he ranks first in three key categories for players to never win a championship: All-Star selections, All-NBA selections, and playoff points according to ESPN.
Now he has led a young Suns team to the Finals, the same Suns team that experienced six consecutive losing seasons while being near the bottom of the standings each year—before adding the guy who goes by “Point God.”
You don’t earn that nickname without doing what Paul has done, and he has earned all of the rights to that nickname after this season.
This Suns team was counted out at the beginning of the year. Sports Illustrated ranked the Suns at No. 18 among 30 squads in their 2020 preseason power rankings. But the Suns, with Paul, ripped apart those preseason predictions as they earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
That alone gave Paul more respect as a top point guard.
Personally, I ranked Paul sixth amongst point guards all-time before this season unfolded, behind Magic Johnson, Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, and John Stockton. He replaced Stockton for me as his season with the Suns played out.
But a ring could push him into the top-three point guards ever and even create an argument as the second-best behind Magic.
Paul caught so much flack for not ever making it past the second round, then he silenced the critics of that argument in 2018, as he helped the Houston Rockets reach the Western Conference Finals.
Just three years later, he has put himself in the position to finally grab a championship ring, which will then silence any critic of the “no ring” argument. If he was to win it all this year, I think the narrative would completely change regarding him, and land him a spot in the top-20 players of all time. For better or for worse, that’s how much a ring can affect a player’s legacy in this league.
We hear the “ring argument” all of the time whenever ranking players like LeBron James and Michael Jordan for instance. This shouldn’t change for Paul. Adding a ring to his already decorated NBA resume would solidify his name into any “best point guard ever” debate while giving him a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame spot.
Four more wins. That’s all Paul and the Suns need for his legacy to completely shift from one of the best players without a ring, to a top-three point guard with a potential Finals MVP (something Curry doesn’t even have). His chance at that begins July 8, when the Finals open up.