Chris Paul: citizen-athlete

But for an athlete of Paul's prominence, capitalizing on such an opportunity -- and meeting public expectations -- is not a matter of just diving in and writing checks from the new $107 million contract extension he signed in July that will keep him in L.A. through at least the 2016-17 season. It requires strategic focus, measurable results, sustainable funding and the patience of a point guard who understands how to let a play unfold.

Experts in athlete philanthropy suggest Paul has gotten at least a few things right. Their suggestions of best practices for athletes in their community giving:

1. Find a cause you're passionate about

For Herren and Johnson, their respective causes were handed to them in the headlines, born from crisis. Addiction and HIV, respectively, set them on their course. Paul might have had more discretion, but his choice to focus on kids and families still came from a meaningful place. In honor of his late grandfather, his "best friend," who was murdered in 2002 in his North Carolina hometown, Paul established the Nathaniel Jones Scholarship Fund, which annually sends two students from his county to his alma mater Wake Forest. The full rides are made possible by an $800,000 endowment, which Paul made the final payments on this year, said Carmen Wilson, who coordinates his community outreach efforts.

Increasingly, he's dialed into the epidemic of physical inactivity in low-income areas. "It's unreal that one out of every three kids is obese," he said. In some communities, no more than one in five kids plays sports, a hard number for some people to get their minds around given the growth of organized sports in more affluent areas that can better afford the travel-ball circuit. Growing up, Paul said, his father sacrificed his entire 401(k) savings to keep Chris in the AAU pipeline.

"Some kids have more of an opportunity than others, and that's why we have to try to get into those communities in different parts of cities and give those kids a chance," he said. "Because, at the end of the day a lot of times, kids feel like, 'No one cares about us.' They're like, 'We see what you're doing over there, but nobody cares about us.' We have to show those kids we care."

Three years ago, in his final season with the New Orleans Hornets, Paul established the CP3 Afterschool Zone, which provides sports and academic enrichment activities for kids in an underserved area of that city. He continues to support the program, even as his attentions turn more toward Los Angeles.

2. Don't go it alone

In late September, on the eve of the NBA preseason, Paul hosted the CP3K Walk for Kids in Carson, Calif., at which he encouraged 3,700 kids to step away from the video games, get outside and develop healthier habits. While the event had his name on it, it was conducted in partnership with a local charity, LA's Best Afterschool Program, which already had deep roots in the community.

In October, he appeared at a Kaiser Permanente event to encourage Californians to sign up for a healthcare plan enabled by the Affordable Care Act. These are the kind of pairings that experts increasingly encourage, in which athletes lend their celebrity to an established organization that is already focused on a given cause.

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