To get a sense of how involved Chris Paul and the players’ union is in trying to get the NBA going again, Paul had just gotten off a call with Adam Silver before speaking with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday morning. The NBPA president is apparently racking up quite the phone bill since play was suspended, also taking part in the union-wide call with Silver earlier in May, and reportedly having a pow-wow with some other star players to put up a united front in returning to action.
“The league in conjunction with the union, the executive committee, we’re constantly on calls trying to figure out what going forward looks like,” Paul told SI, adding an unequivocal “yes” when asked if the union is directly involved with the league on proposals that would put players back on the court.
“Everything we do is a collective,” Paul said. “If we have a phone call, we’re going to have this point of view, and this point of view, we literally try to think of everything before we make a decision.”
In addition to his duties as union president, Paul is keeping busy with a litany of other personal projects, like producing a documentary on the immediate fallout of the Donald Sterling controversy, or organizing a virtual field trip for students at North Carolina A&T. SI caught up with Paul to discuss those endeavors, his life in quarantine, and more.
Rohan Nadkarni: What’s your life been like since the season was suspended?
Chris Paul: Pretty busy, I’m trying to stay busy. On phone calls, spending as much time with my family as possible. I have the chance to be with my kids and wife. I’m trying to stay present, trying to get better at different things.
RN: So a lot of people are trying to develop new skills during this like baking bread or cooking. What are you trying to get better at?
CP: I take a Spanish class twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s going pretty good. I took Spanish all through my childhood, K through 5, 7th and 8th grade, 9th through 12th, and even when I was in college. Right now, I can understand it a lot better than I could speak it.
RN: Obviously you’re one of the people involved in the Blackballed documentary on Donald Sterling, why was it still important to tell this story?
CP: I think a lot of times things happen and over time you get a chance to think about it. A lot of times you’re in the moment and you don’t really understand how everything came to be a certain way, or how it affected you or how it made you stronger and where you go from there. We felt like it was a great time to tell this story. I’m excited for everybody to see it.
RN: Is there something you took away from that situation that stayed with you the rest of your career? Is there a biggest thing you learned?
CP: One of the biggest parts of the documentary, and they talk about it some, when all that happened, Doc [Rivers], the job in that situation of communicating with all of us as a whole, allowing us to be one voice. One of the biggest things I learned in that situation, he could have let us all go out, let us tweet, let us Instagram, talk about this, talk about that. But we talked about it as a team, and we wanted one voice, and Doc was that voice.
RN: I saw that you are helping set up a virtual field trip for students at North Carolina A&T with the Hornets. How did you get involved and what was that process like?
CP: I actually went to a class a few years ago at Harvard business school. After the class and I did all the case studies, I reached back out to the teacher a few years ago, and I asked her if she would help me bring a course like this to an HBCU. Everyone in my family went to an HBCU except me. As a kid, you’re never thinking about that. Every kid is trying to figure out how they can go to Duke, Carolina, Wake Forest. As I’ve gotten older and more educated on how important HBCUs are, one of my passions is trying to continue to build them up and have kids understand how important they are to the community.
A lot of people don’t realize in the U.S., prior to the Civil Rights Act, higher education was predominantly white. African-Americans couldn’t go to school there. These were the schools that were built for African-Americans. There’s a 101 HBCUs. A lot of people say, “you didn’t go to one!” I didn‘t. But I don’t think that has to stop me from encouraging kids to not overlook HBCUs. Nothing is wrong with the bigger schools. I remember when I was coming out of high school I looked at as, “What? They want me to go to where? I’m bigger than that?” That’s what the perception was, and that’s what has to change.
RN: Obviously everyone is dealing with these bigger issues and this is a crazy time. For you personally, how difficult was it for the season to stop overnight with the year you were having on the court?
CP: It is what it is. For me, I don’t know what’s going to hold or what’s not, you deal with the situations that come when they happen. Everything isn’t always going to be perfect or ideal, it is what it is. So you adjust and adapt.
RN: You turned 35 last week, how did you celebrate?
CP: Zoom call with my brother and his kids. I got in the pool with my kids. It was maybe not the ideal birthday, but it was cool for me because I actually got to be with my family.
RN: A lot of us are setting up Zoom dates with our friends to help us get through this. Are you doing anything like that?
CP: Yeah, yeah I definitely do a Zoom call with some of my friends. I actually had a Zoom call this morning with Deandre Jordan. Our families and some of our friends, we did like a workout this morning. I’m just trying to stay as connected as possible with friends and with family. This is probably the longest I’ve gone without seeing my parents in a long time.