Chris Paul is a superstar.
There seems to be this growing belief that Paul doesn’t deserve to hold that title, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ second-round exit from the 2013-14 postseason didn’t help matters.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless has been the leading voice against Paul’s claim to superstardom, insisting that CP3’s lack of playoff success over the course of his nine-year career should exclude him from the ranks of the NBA’s biggest names:
He is still CP Zero (rings), still has never been out of 2nd round, has only been to 2nd round 3 times in 9 yrs, 24-30 postseason. Not GREAT— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 14, 2014
How can Stephen A call Chris Paul a SUPERstar when he's been out of 1st rd only twice in 9 yrs and never to conf finals? I need to see more.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 18, 2014
But when you look at the numbers, both on the court and in the sales market, there’s no doubt that CP3 belongs in the superstar class.
And the idea that he’s undeserving of such an honor? Well, it’s time to put that to rest.
Best at his position
There’s no debating the fact that Paul is the best point guard in the game today.
He's always aware, he knows the tempo of the game, knows the score. He's always aware of when he needs to pick his points, you know, pick his shots or get into attack and make things happen.
That's why I've always felt that he's the best point guard in the NBA.
Parker deserves recognition for playing such a crucial role in three NBA championship runs, but the San Antonio Spurs are essentially a dynasty and are significantly better than any team that Paul’s ever been on.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has gone deeper into the postseason than Paul, but CP3 has never had a player like Kevin Durant alongside him.
Numbers don’t lie—and Paul’s individual stats rise above those of Parker and Westbrook.
Westbrook has the edge in scoring and rebounding, but Paul has him beat in shooting percentage (both from two and three-point range), assists, steals and free-throw percentage.
Parker’s superiority over Paul is exclusive to shooting percentage, as CP3 has the Spurs guard beat in every other major category.
Defensively, Westbrook and Paul are neck-and-neck. But CP3's versatility—the 6'0" guard even locked down the 6'11" Durant for stretches in the conference semifinals—gives him a slight edge.
#Clippers HC Doc Rivers on Chris Paul: "I think he's the best defender at the point guard I've seen--maybe ever"— 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) April 25, 2014
All of those guys are superstars. And Paul, the league’s undisputed top point guard, is right there with them.
An important aspect of superstardom is how strongly a player influences a fanbase.
Prior to Paul’s arrival in Los Angeles three years ago, the Clippers had never broken the top 10 in attendance since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2001.
But in 2012, Paul’s first full season with the Clips, fan attendance jumped to about 19,000 a game, the seventh-most in the entire league. And then in 2013, the team climbed all the way to sixth in the NBA.
The Clippers again ranked seventh in attendance this past season.
And here’s another nugget: The Clips have had better regular-season attendance than the Los Angeles Lakers in every full season that Paul has been in L.A.
In addition to filling the stadium, jersey and team merchandise sales are another great indication of what kind of power a particular player holds.
Paul’s New Orleans Hornets jersey was the third-best seller behind Bryant's and James' in 2008-09, and then ranked seventh the following year. The Hornets, now the Pelicans, are yet to have another player crack the top 10 since CP3’s departure.
Paul’s jersey remained a hot item even after joining the Clippers in 2011, as LAC made its “presence known with two players on the list—Blake Griffin (No. 9) and Chris Paul (No. 15). The last time the Clippers featured two players was in April 2002 with Darius Miles (No. 7) and Lamar Odom (No. 8),” per NBA.com.
The most recent numbers were released on April 9, 2013 and saw the Clippers settle into the No. 8 spot for team merchandise, while Paul’s jersey jumped up to ninth.
Paul is a box-office giant. Attendance at Clippers home games has skyrocketed since CP3 came to town, and his jersey is immensely popular wherever he goes.
That's the power of a superstar.
No rings, no problem
Okay, okay—Paul is the best point guard in the league, he puts fans in the seats and his jersey flies off the shelves regardless of his team.
But where are his rings?
That’s a great question, friends. I suppose I could ask the same for Carmelo Anthony, Durant, Westbrook, Howard, Harden and every other big-time player with a trophy case void of a championship ring.
Do you view Paul as a superstar?
But I’m not going to do that. Why? Because stardom isn’t all about how many banners you raise.
There’s a difference between being a superstar and being great. When comparing James to Michael Jordan, it’s appropriate to count the championships. But when assessing a player’s level of prominence in today's NBA, rings don’t carry the same weight.
Adam Morrison—remember him? The mustached guy from Gonzaga—who will go down as one of the biggest busts in NBA history—won more rings than 18 of the 25 players that participated in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game.
Does that make Morrison better than All-Stars like Melo, D12 and Durant? Please.
CP3’s championship may come and it may not. But if Paul continues on the path that he’s paved for himself, he will have a shot to go down as one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game.
Paul is now, and always will be, a superstar.
All stats and information are accurate as of May 23, courtesy of Basketball Reference. Jersey and merchandise data is based on combined sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue, New York and NBAStore.com.