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NBA star Chris Paul reacts to blockbuster trade: ‘I found out on the plane’

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(NEW YORK) — Chris Paul made major NBA headlines on Sunday as part of a reported blockbuster trade between the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards that includes him and Landry Shamet for Bradley Beal, according to ESPN.

The 12-time NBA All-Star told ABC News’ Good Morning America he was en route to New York City when he got the call about the trade.

“I was surprised, too,” Paul said with a laugh Monday on GMA. “I found out on the plane yesterday flying here. In this league anything can happen, so you just figure out what’s next.”

Three years before he was selected as the No. 4 NBA Draft pick by the New Orleans Hornets in 2005, Paul, then a high school senior, put up some impressive and meaningful points during a high school basketball game in honor of his grandfather Nathaniel “Papa” Jones — lovingly referred to as Papa Chilly — who was killed during a robbery attack at 61 years old.

“It was unbelievable. My grandfather was my best friend. I lost my grandmother when I was 7 to lung cancer, and when you have a best friend like that, it’s everything,” Paul said. “The way he was taken from me, and to score 61 points the day after his funeral, and actually come here [to ‘GMA’] right after — that was the first time I ever did some type of national interview — I was so nervous. I remember I had water and I was shaking. It’s crazy how life has come full circle.”

The two-time Olympian recently penned a new book, Sixty-One: Life Lessons from Papa, On and Off the Court, dedicated to his late grandfather, who helped raise him and shaped Paul as both a person and a player, he said.

“My grandfather taught me everything. He taught me discipline, taught me about hard work. He had the first Black-owned service station in North Carolina, so I used to change tires, check oil, do all these different things. He just always showed me and my brother the work, right? Regardless what happens, the results, it’s just all about the work,” Paul said.

The 38-year-old future hall of famer was putting in work long before his NBA days and said he’d actually “like to say ‘thank you"” to his high school varsity basketball coach, “because sometimes you can be given things just a little bit too early and it humbled me.”

“I practiced with JV and varsity every day. On JV, I got a chance to hone my confidence, to really build myself up. Then my junior year I was ready. So, Coach Layton, I appreciate you, know that,” he said.

The father of two, who has a 14-year-old son who’s currently at basketball summer camp and 10-year-old daughter who just got into basketball, added, “You just understand so much in life when you have kids — they are everything.”

Paul has also honed his leadership off the court: Last year, President Biden appointed him to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, under the U.S. Department of Education.

“I’m born and raised in Winston Salem, North Carolina, so I grew up around a lot of different HBCUs — I actually graduated from Winston Salem State University back in December,” he said. “And it’s just been really cool for me because as a kid, you only know what you know. So, when I started growing up and learning why HBCU’s are so important and why they are underfunded, I wanted to try to help as much as I could.”

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