It was the fall of 2005 when 20-year-old Chris Paul inconspicuously walked onto the court at Lloyd Noble Center for a friendly pickup game against that year's Oklahoma Sooners.
Three months earlier, the New Orleans Hornets had made Paul the No. 4 overall pick in that year's NBA Draft. One month earlier, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and the Hornets were on the verge of calling Oklahoma City home for the next two seasons.
After leaving Wake Forest following his sophomore season, Paul was back on a college campus at the invite of then-Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson, who two years earlier had coached Paul on the U.S. Junior National team.
When Paul ran with the Sooners, Blake Griffin was a junior at Oklahoma Christian School and still 18 months away from being named a McDonald's High School All-American.
For two seasons, Griffin had an opportunity to observe Paul and the suddenly hometown Hornets up close.
On Dec. 14, 2011, their lives collided when Paul was dealt from the Hornets to become Griffin's teammate with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Griffin makes his third NBA visit to Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. Wednesday to face the Thunder, but this will be his first appearance with Paul as his teammate.
Griffin was still two years away from attending OU when Paul visited campus that September day seven years ago, but older brother Taylor Griffin was a freshman with the Sooners that season.
“It was a pretty big deal that he was there,” Taylor recalled of Paul's visit. “I remember one time I got switched off on him. I was guarding him at the top of the key with nobody around me. It was just me and him. He kind of smiled at me, went around me and did his thing.”
The more Taylor got to know Paul, the more he liked.
“He's cool,” Taylor said. “Even to this day, seeing him in LA when I've been out there, he's a great guy. You never hear anything negative said about him.”
Taylor now plays for the Dakota Wizards in the NBA Developmental League, averaging 6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 18.2 minutes. He and Blake remain in constant contact, speaking every day or every other day.
When watching the Clippers, Taylor said he immediately noticed Paul's impact on Blake's overall effectiveness.
“Especially early on,” Taylor said. “It was so evident how much easier everything was for Blake, for DeAndre (Jordan), for all the guards getting open shots. Everything flows through the point guard and it's crazy to see the development of that team over the last two years just from getting a couple of players.”
Taylor knows what it's like to have a great point guard as a teammate. He was drafted No. 48 overall by the Phoenix Suns in 2009, the same draft during which baby brother Blake was selected No. 1. With the Suns, Taylor played alongside pending Hall of Famer Steve Nash.
“Guys go there and their careers are rejuvenated because they get to play with him,” Taylor said. “It's amazing the numbers they put up while they're playing with Steve Nash.”
Blake and Taylor's father, Tommy Griffin, was an Oklahoma high school head coach for 27 seasons. He won nine state championships, including four straight at OCS with Blake, the first two with Taylor playing alongside.
Not even Tommy can quantify how much Paul might mean to Blake's pro career.
“It's hard to put into some kind of exact measurement,” Tommy said of Paul's worth as a teammate. “He's the type of guy who can find you, but he can also score. Once he penetrates, the reason he can dish it off is because he draws more than one person (to defend him). With his court awareness and his sight, he can find a lot of open people.”
Taylor recalls his brother's reaction after the Paul trade was approved.
“He was giddy, to say the least,” Taylor said.
Tommy couldn't remember exactly what Blake said about the trade. “He had nothing but positive things to say,” said Tommy, who chuckled before adding, “I think you'll find the same thing said by most people when it comes to Chris.”