Chris Paul: citizen-athlete

Doug Flutie welcomed the public into one of the most famous moments in college football history. For a $1,000 donation, fans were invited to have lunch with him and former receiver Gerard Phelan at Boston College's stadium. Then, they went on the field and, one by one, got in a huddle with Flutie, who called the Hail Mary play just as he did in November 1984 against Miami in the Orange Bowl. You know what happened next: videotaped and set to a customized version of the "He did it! Flutie did it!" call of the game announcer.

That was 12 years ago. "Throwing 75 passes was a lot on his arm," Pollick said. Still, a clever way to raise $75,000 for autism at close to no cost.

4. Aim for retirement

"Build it slow," said Alisha Greenberg, director of the sports philanthropy program at George Washington University. "Don't think you're going to change the world in a day. It's a business, and businesses are not created overnight. Sometimes, athletes get excited to make a difference, but they're not realistic."

The fact is, most active athletes are distracted. They have short careers, small windows to maximize their value as performers. They often are better positioned to make a difference once they have retired and have the time, maturity and resources -- if they planned right -- to devote to a cause. Most of the Magic Johnson Foundation's work has been done since its founder stopped playing.

"Too many of these guys put money in and spend it all," Pollick said. "It's better to put the money in and just give away the interest each year so it goes on forever. Then when you retire, you can be associated with whatever cause it is." Pollick points to the examples of Andre Agassi and David Robinson, who created schools in Las Vegas and San Antonio, respectively, and stayed in the news because of their foundations. "Their brand continues," he said. "It's not one-and-done."

On top of his various community and national engagements, Paul was elected president of the National Basketball Players Association in August. He keeps finding bandwidth.

What's next? His answer suggests he knows there are personal limits.

"Great question," he said. "What's next for me is basketball. I'd be crazy if I didn't know the platform that has even given me this opportunity. That's how I make my living, from basketball. Making sure I'm ready to go for my team, my teammates, and doing as much as I can do for the Los Angeles Clippers. After that, I'll talk about it, and I'll work on it, but, now, basketball is my focus."

It is Paul's way of saying that not all requests are granted. The high school auditoriums of America will have to wait. Some of them, at least.

Project Play is a thought leadership initiative the Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program. Partners include ESPN, which hosted the Chris Paul conversation at its Los Angeles studios and captured public opinion on expectations about athletes and leagues charitable efforts through a series of SportsNation polls.

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