If there’s one part of the human anatomy that is absolutely essential to the way Chris Paul plays basketball, it is his eyes. Now in his 11th season, Paul is averaging 10 assists per game for his career, and has long been considered one of the best point guards in the game. He seems to see the court in a way that others do not. So it came as a surprise to learn that up until this off-season, Paul’s eyesight was much worse than 20/20.
“Everyone used to tell me I squinted on the court,” Paul told the Orange County Register. “Like when [Coach] Doc [Rivers] was trying to get my attention to call a play, they’d say I squinted all the time.”
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Paul avoided getting contact lenses or wearing glasses for years simply by memorizing the eye chart—i.e., the series of letters he was asked to read during the Los Angeles Clippers’ annual eye exam given to their players. He passed every time. Even as those around him urged him to undergo LASIK surgery if he was so against lenses or glasses, Paul, a self-admitted hypochondriac, was too afraid to do it. Finally, with the help of his mother, Paul relented this May and had the surgery.
“It was probably the most nerve-racking thing I ever did,” Paul said.
But once his nerves subsided, and Paul stopped phoning his doctor every single day for three weeks straight because he thought something was wrong, the benefits of being able to see, really see, washed over him.
The Clippers point guard is shooting a career-high 46 percent from beyond the arc, averaging a career high in steals (3.1) and scoring 18 points and dishing out 8.3 assists—all while playing fewer minutes than at any point in his career as the team tries to keep him fresh. The Clippers are off to a 10-2 start, playing their best basketball since Paul arrived out west in 2011.
Paul has dominated the NBA for years with less than perfect vision. We can only imagine what the rest of this season holds now that he’s finally experiencing 20/20.