Chris Paul has made a Hall-of-Fame career out of unceasing gumption and guile. The Houston Rockets star was a blur with the ball in his hands early in his career, and has compensated for declining athleticism with skills and smarts that will always ensure some measure of effectiveness.
But Paul would be nothing without the brash confidence that's long rubbed opposing players, fans, and even some teammates the wrong way since he entered the league in 2004.
His appraisal of LeBron James' recent comments about being the greatest player of all time, then, is hardly surprising.
“Why wouldn't he say that?” Paul said when prompted by USA TODAY's Scott Gleeson . “I'd say the same thing. If you don't think you're the best like that, you're in the wrong sport.”
It bears mentioning that Paul is biased here. Along with Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, he is one of James' three closest friends in the NBA.
The two not only vacation together in the offseason, but also serve as President and Vice President of the National Basketball Players' Association. Paul and James are basically linked at the hip.
But it doesn't take favoritism for Paul's assessment of James' claim to hold water. What professional athlete doesn't possess unrelenting, perhaps unrealistic belief in his or her ability?
It's not like James' resume is inconsistent with that of other all-time greats, either. Indeed, his epic performance in the 2016 Finals, bringing the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-win Golden State Warriors, is one of the most impressive accomplishments in league history.
Is James the greatest player of all time? Reasonable minds can disagree.
But criticizing him for thinking so, as Paul succinctly and correctly states, naively neglects the self-worth it takes for all professional athletes to reach the pinnacle of their respective sport.