It was an emotional goodbye for Chris Paul when he left the Big Easy a few summers ago – CP3 shed tears after he was traded from New Orleans after six spectacular seasons to Los Angeles back in the summer of 2011. Per Yahoo!:
Chris Paul stepped onto a private jet here around 5 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2011 for a flight to a new start in Los Angeles. As soon as the ex-New Orleans Hornets star sat down in his seat, the reality of the departure from a city that he loved and a franchise that frustrated him set in and he broke down into tears just before the wheels went up.
“We got on the plane and I laid my head on the window after saying goodbye to the guys at the airport that I used to see all the time. I was emotional,” Paul said. “You think you were going to have some time to let it set in. But as soon as it happened, all the memories, just leaving…
“The trade happened at night so it wasn’t like you got to tell people bye. It happened and we were gone.”
Paul’s memorable Hornets tenure with a bitter ending started nearly nine years ago when he was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Though Hurricane Katrina left Paul and the Hornets dispatched to Oklahoma City for most of his first season, the 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year quickly became one the league’s elite players.
Hornets fans came back to games in large part to cheer Paul, who led the franchise to a near second-round playoff upset of the reigning world champion San Antonio Spurs in 2008 and a near first-round upset of the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2011. Ex-Hornets forward David West called Paul the franchise’s first big star in New Orleans. Paul also represented the Hornets in his first All-Star appearance in New Orleans in 2008 and has earned the honor every season here after that.
He bought a high-rise condominium on the downtown-area waterfront that included such neighbors as then-Saints running back Reggie Bush. Paul threw beads from floats during Mardi Gras, danced to the tunes at the ESSENCE Music Festival and had his favorite restaurants like NOLA. The Dallas Cowboys fan also became a Saints enthusiast and celebrated when they advanced to and subsequently won the Super Bowl in 2010.
“I was really a part of that city,” Paul said. “I honestly can’t say one negative thing about the city. If it were not for the city of New Orleans, I’m not who I am now. They just embrace you as family.”