Four teams are left in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, and Chris Paul's team is not one of them. He will go into his 18th season with his place more than cemented on the very short list of greatest point guards of all time but still without a ring.
We'll have all summer (and beyond) to debate the second-round collapse of the Phoenix Suns against the Dallas Mavericks, ending in a blowout Game 7 loss on their home floor on Sunday, and Paul's role in that collapse, which came after a 64-win regular season following last summer's trip to the Finals. Per Marc J. Spears of andscape, Paul suffered a quad injury, which may explain his subpar play in the final five games of the series following a spectacular performance in the first two.
Nonetheless, because of NBA fandom's all-too-prevalent "rings culture," Paul's failures to win a championship will become a referendum on his legacy or some other buzzword that dominates the talk shows and Twitter discourse. But an equally prevalent thought is a shared sense of hope that Paul can get a ring before he retires because he really, really deserves it.
Some version of this sentiment has been around since at least the Clippers days, but as reality set in on Sunday that the top-seeded Suns weren't making a return trip to the Finals, it kicked back into high gear. Jeremy Lin and Dez Bryant jumped on the train; Patrick Beverley, whose post-elimination playoff tweets have mostly been tiresome, got this one right.
Usually, the teams and players that deserve a ring are the ones that win the championship. You don't earn a title just by being great for a long time (which Paul has) or by coming close a bunch of times (which Paul has). You earn a championship by winning a championship. Only one team wins it every year, and many things have to break right.