Chris Paul didn’t want to take off his gold medal. In fact, he almost wore it in the shower.
But before that, the New Orleans Hornets point guard says his medal had to withstand a bath of a different sort after the medal ceremony.
“The bus ride from the arena to the hotel was crazy,” Paul says. “We had cameras and stuff like that, but all of us put our cell phones and cameras in bags because we had champagne bottles on the bus and we almost drowned. We almost messed up our medals, to tell you the truth.”
Paul pledges to take much better care of his newly minted jewelry in the future. It represents one of his proudest accomplishments – helping lead the U.S. men’s basketball team to an undefeated run in the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and in the process reasserting America as the gold standard for basketball around the globe.
Paul says he hasn’t decided yet where he’ll keep it, only that it will be in close proximity to another keepsake from his basketball past.
“I still have the basketball in a case, in a frame, back home [in North Carolina] when I scored 61 points and this medal will be somewhere next to that,” Paul says.
Paul is referring to his senior season at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, N.C. where he scored 61 points to honor his slain grandfather. Just days earlier, Paul’s grandfather, Nathaniel Jones, was murdered in his carport during a robbery.
After scoring his final points of the game, Paul intentionally missed a free throw and took himself out of the game to preserve his total of 61, the same age as his grandfather at the time of his death.
While that game ball is the most meaningful memorabilia in Paul’s possession, it is certainly not the only item.
He is a self-described shoe fanatic who has amassed approximately 60 pairs of autographed basketball shoes, including some from his own gold medal-winning teammates.
In addition to signed sneakers from point guard Jason Kidd, the most senior member of the squad, Paul also has three of his own pairs, worn in the Olympics, signed by the entire team.
Paul’s Olympic odyssey augmented his collection for obvious reasons.
“I feel like that was probably the greatest experience of my life,” he says.
Paul says the team will get to keep the uniforms worn in their gold medal victory against defending champion Spain as well as a unique photographic memento.
“We went to New York for a big media blitz [before the Olympics] and we took pictures in front of the Statue of Liberty,” Paul says. “And USA basketball – I don’t know how they did it – but right before the medal round started, they showed us this picture of the whole team at the Statue of Liberty, and they superimposed the medals around our necks. So I think everyone on the team got a signed copy of that.”
Fortunately for Paul and his American teammates, they were able to secure the real thing, not just a computer-generated facsimile.
When asked about the permanent home for his gold medal, Paul is either coy or genuinely ambivalent about where to display a most valued and valuable piece of hardware.
“I have no clue yet but I’m going to find somewhere. I know whenever I leave, it will be with me.”
Just not in the shower.