Chris Paul, Liz Cambage, Brooks Koepka and NFL stars such as Myles Garrett and the Eagles offensive line are featured in ESPN’s 2019 Body Issue. To see interviews, pictures, videos and more, visit our full 2019 gallery.
There’s little Chris Paul hasn’t done since he won ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004: another RoY award, this time in the NBA in 2006; nine All-Star appearances; four All-NBA first team nods; seven All-NBA defensive team selections. Next up for the 34-year-old, now playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder? The 11th edition of ESPN’s Body Issue. During his shoot, Paul sat down to talk about how his body — and his game — have changed after 14 years in the league.
You’ve had friends in the league participate in the Body Issue before. Did they give you advice?
I don’t think they know I’m doing this. The only one who knows is Trevor Ariza. He talked all types of s—. [Laughs]
What part of your body are you proudest of?
My abs. When I eat, that’s where the weight comes immediately. If I eat french fries, one or two, they go right there.
After 14 years in the league, what keeps you going?
My competitive nature. And my family and my team — all my homies that I grew up with and everybody who supports me. I think when I go out and play, it’s never just about me; it’s about my whole squad. I feel a lot better than I did a few years ago, and that’s just from experience, learning and never just being satisfied. I think one of the biggest issues with a lot of people is they get in this league and they get complacent, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m here. I’ll just be here.” No. There’s somebody coming to try to take your job. And for me, that’s not an option. You’re not taking my job. No.
What parts of the game are easier now, and what parts are harder?
I think what’s easier now is just knowing where people are going to be. I’ll be in a game and I’ll make a pass or something, and people are like, “Ooh, how’d you see that?” Well, there ain’t but so many different places you can go on a court. And so after playing for so long, you know that if you get a rebound and survey the court real quick and it’s three people over here, you know one more is going to be over here in the corner or on the wing. One of the tougher things now — and that’s what I’m working on this summer — is just jumping. I mean, constantly jumping.
How has your body changed since you entered the NBA?
Oh man. It’s changed dramatically. My rookie year there was a McDonald’s right by where we practiced, and I’d stop and get a McGriddle combo every day. Every day. And I’d usually get an extra hash brown and try to get a bigger orange juice. And I would get home, and my brother and I would get Chick-fil-A. As long as it wasn’t Sunday, we would get Chick-fil-A on the way home. And then we would usually order pizza at night. We didn’t know any different. We were young, first time living away from home. But everything’s a lot different now. Some of the biggest choices I make daily are what I put into my body.
Why did you decide to go vegan?
I wanted to try it. Any great athlete is always looking for an edge, so I said, let me see how this affects my performance. Right now it’s just the offseason, but hopefully I can stick it out into the regular season.
This has been an intense offseason in the NBA. What’s it been like for you?
To say the least. This summer’s been interesting. There’s been a lot of player movement, and it’s great for our league. No offense to baseball or football, but our game is so crazy that even when we’re out of season, we’re still the leading topic night in and night out.
If you could steal an NBA body for a day, whose would it be?
I don’t necessarily need the body — I just want the height, you know what I mean? Let me get Boban [Marjanovic’s] height. He’s over 7? Let me get that height. It’s over for everybody. We ain’t even going to play the games.
What’s an underrated part of your body required to play your position?
Vision. I have to see everything going on on the court. But another one is core. Just about every position says their core matters, but as a guard, when you’re coming off those screens and people are trying to hit you and make you go right or left, if you can stabilize, you control where you go every time.
What was your worst injury, and what was the rehab process like?
Unfortunately, I’ve had a number of injuries. The worst one was the very first one, when I tore my meniscus in 2010. I was so young, and I didn’t take my rehab serious enough. That’s the one thing I would change. People think I would change the Houston vs. Golden State game where I got injured. No, it wouldn’t be a win or a loss. It would be taking my rehab a lot more serious when I got injured.
Who are your role models in terms of extending your career?
I had an opportunity to play with Grant Hill. It was his last year, with the Clippers. We used to talk about diet all the time. He used to be like, “During the summer, I sort of do 80/20,” like, he eats very healthy during the week, and then on weekends he may give himself a cheat day. Steve Nash took really good care of his body. Bron takes really good care of his body. The biggest thing all those guys have in common is discipline. I’m 34. I’m going to be chasing around a bunch of 19- and 20-year-olds. There’s no excuse. If you get a routine and you stick to it, the sky’s the limit.
Do you get young players coming to you for advice on their body and food?
Not yet. I mean, I try to tell guys. But it’s funny, that’s what was hard for me getting hurt last year in Miami. You know, we would be taking off on a team flight, and the young guys come with Chick-fil-A, and they see me coming in with my own meals prepped, they’d be like, “Aw, he eating that healthy stuff.” But then I got hurt, and it’s one of those things where the guys are like, “Man, why am I going to take some advice from him about how to take care of my body if he always getting hurt?” So I had to try to fix that myself, and I paid attention to that. I try to give as much advice as I can to whoever will listen.