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On point.

Don't let his baby face, easy smile and Fred Hammond-listening ears fool you. On the court, New Orleans Hornets point guard CHRIS PAUL has unmatched killer instincts that ensure his place as one of the greats.

Chris Paul doesn't know how not to go hard. "I' m competitor," he says. "I hate for anyone to beat me, no matter what it is." When he loses a game of Scrabble, he rewards his college-sweetheart girlfriend with the silent treatment. Not even his younger cousins are spared when playing one-on-one with the 2006 NBA Bookie of the Year. "If we play to ten, I'll let them get to eight," he says. "But when it's all said and done, I'm going to win."

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Paul's parents drove his appetite for success. Although his high school required athletes to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, Paul and his brother were kept to a household requirement of 3.0. "My family had higher standards," he says. "We never wanted to be average. They made me feel like I always had to work hard."

It's no coincidence that Paul's closest friends are also at the top of their games. While in college at Wake Forest, a liberal arts university in Paul's home state of North Carolina, he struck up a friendship with multiplatinum rapper Lil Wayne. The two constantly text about each other's performances. Heisman Trophy-winner Reggie Bush lives in the same condo as Paul; they share a personal chef. Tony and Eva Longoria Parker were guests at Paul's home during the 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend. And at the 2003 McDonald's All-American game, Paul met Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James when they were both high school seniors.

Twice a week, the two titans connect online to play NBA 2K, the video game series of which Paul graced the cover in 2007. They' even stayed at each other's houses during the season. Off the court, it's fun and games. On it, everything's strictly business, never personal. "Growing up, at one point, me and my brother had bunk beds," Paul says. "But on our basketball court, it's like I don't even know him."

Fans and players--including league stars Kobe Bryant and Chauncey Billups--have widely recognized Paul's intensity and focus. Los Angeles Clippers guard Baron Davis, a two-time All-Star, openly admires his game. "He is one of the smartest, craftiest players in the league," says Davis. "He's so skilled with the ball and can do so many things for himself or his teammates. Lie makes everyone around him so much better."

Accolades from your peers, a New Orleans Hornets contract worth an estimated $60 million to $75 million, a Jordan Brand shoe and an Olympic gold medal life is great for the 23-year-old.

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But Paul is far from content. He's pursuing more than a legacy-sealing championship. "You don't have a right to be in the NBA; it's a privilege," he says. "I try to take full advantage of the situations arid opportunities that it has created for me." A hardcore bowler since high school, he secured the Professional Bowlers Association to sponsor his charity invitational, the Winston-Salem Weekend. Celebrity Bowling Tournament, and helped get the event aired on ESPN. Paul, who left Wake Forest after his sophomore year, also says he "owes it to himself" to graduate. Continuing his education, he takes online courses toward earning a liberal arts degree.

Chris Paul has no quit, in his game or his life. He wants every fan in the stands to feel the same when they watch him play. "I might have an off night. It might not have been one of my best games," Paul says, "but no one can question whether I played hard. I don't want anyone to ever be able to say that about me."

For more: giantmag.com/chris-paul

photography colin lane

Stylist: Rachel Johnson for ThomasFaison.com

Shirt Michael Kors; Tie Rugby Ralph Lauren
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Title Annotation:Chris Paul
Author:Kim, Hyun
Publication:GIANT
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:654
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