<
>

Reporting From...Chris Paul's Big Night in New Orleans

Mother, father, and CP3. Jonathan Bachman

There was a time when Chris Paul could only dream about getting his own shoe. As a kid growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Chris and his older brother C.J. would draw up crude renderings of what they wanted their signature shoes to look like. That dream was fed inspiration every Christmas when the brothers would unwrap the latest Air Jordan sneakers.

You could say things have changed a bit in the Paul household.

Instead of getting just one pair of Jordan Brand sneakers a year—a pair he'd have to wear judiciously, mind you—now Chris Paul has his own Jordan Brand line and gets as many Jordan products as he wants. And instead of drawing up dream shoes with his brother, Chris gets to collaborate with Jason Mayden, a senior shoe designer with Jordan Brand, on hiw own.

Their latest creation is the CP3 II.

"To see it come to life, off a piece of paper, and to see it in real life is a dream come true," Paul said, adding that Mayden's designs were "much better" than his own.

The shoe itself pays homage to Paul's upbringing and the strong family bonds that have supported him through the years. Everyone from his brother C.J. and his parents, Charles and Robin, to his late grandfather, "Papa Chilli", and college coach, Skip Prosser, get their own shout-outs integrated on the design of the shoe. But for all the dreaming Chris did as a boy, his father was the most emotional about his son getting his own shoe line.

"It's what all the young kids say now, 'surreal'", Charles Paul said. "My own son got his own shoe and it's the Jordan shoe that I used to pay for. I'm living more than a dream."

The dream, of course, goes beyond just Chris Paul having his own shoe. The New Orleans Hornets point guard has already established himself as one of the premier players in the NBA and it's no surprise that Paul's shoe launch party would be a star-studded affair—actor Wendell Pierce (The Wire), Big Tigger (106 & Park), rapper MC Lyte, and Bun B of UGK fame were all in attendance.

And while shoe release parties don't happen every day, Paul is very much living the star's life. Take, for instance, a few weeks ago when he coolly chatted up director Spike Lee courtside before tip-off of a Hornets game against the New York Knicks. Or last night when, after Paul dropped 27 points and 15 assists on the visiting Dallas Mavericks, rapper Lil Wayne went out of his way to say hi to the Hornets point guard.

"You can't put into words what he's doing," Wayne said afterwards. "The light that he does bring [to New Orleans] is positive and for a while that light was negative. I just try to stay in the light with him."

To be sure, Paul's shoe release brings joy to his family and to the city he represents on the court. At an appearance held at Foot Locker in downtown New Orleans on Wednesday, fans lined up out the door to get a chance to meet Paul and have him sign their stuff. One man spoke of how much his son, standing next to him, looked up to Paul. The child looked at his hero, mouth agape and speechless, no doubt dreaming of what his signature shoe may one day look like.