Chris Paul once scored 61 points, and then chose to stop scoring for the rest of the game, per ABC News. But Paul wasn't with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, or Los Angeles Clippers for this legendary game.
Rather, CP3 was a senior at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina. And this 2002 high school basketball game will always stand as one of the best games of his career.
Growing up, he was very tight with his grandfather. In fact, it was his grandpa that first gave him the nickname, “CP3” before Paul even reached the NBA – because Paul, his father, and his brother all shared the same initials: CP.
In the summers as a teenager, Paul worked at his grandpa’s service station, per thesportsrush.com. And whenever Paul had a high school game, his grandpa would close up shop early, eagerly telling all his customers he needed to go see his grandson play basketball.
On November 15, 2002, his grandfather was violently murdered. He was just 61 years old. Paul, understandably, was devastated. His next basketball game was five days later, and he didn’t think he would play. He described his mixed emotions to ABC News:
“How can I go out there on that court, knowing my grandad’s not there? And my aunt mentioned before I went to the Parkland game, she said, ‘How about 61 points for your granddad?' And I just thought to myself, ‘That would be lovely.' And I just thought to myself, ‘Ain't no way I can do that.'”
In the end, Paul decided to play, dedicating the game to his grandfather. He knew, though, his aunt's challenge to him was near impossible.
But then, something happened in that game no one expected:
Chris Paul caught fire.
But there was also something else at play here. The North Carolina state record for points scored in a high school game was 67 (which was set 60 years ago). Chris Paul had a very real chance to end his night in the history books.
But Paul wasn’t thinking about that at all.
As he stepped up to the free throw line, he already knew what he was going to do. He already, miraculously, had hit 61 – one point for each year his grandpa was alive.
At the line, Paul shot an airball out of bounds – on purpose. On his way to the bench, Paul looked at his dad and broke down into tears. He didn’t make it to his seat on the bench. Instead, he fell right into his father’s arms.
Completing a perfect tribute to a man who meant so much to him.
“My granddad was my biggest fan,” Paul told ESPN. “He was always bragging about me and my brother, how good we were.” And for one night in 2002, Paul showed his grandad – and the rest of the world – just how good he was.
By scoring exactly 61 points to honor a man who meant the world to him.