On the moonless night of Nov. 15, 2002, five young boys ran across a park, jumped a 61-year-old man, bound his wrists, duct-taped his mouth, and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped.
All for his wallet.
That man was Nathaniel Jones, the grandfather of future NBA star Chris Paul.
Today, those boys are men, sitting in prisons across the state of North Carolina, some serving 14-year terms, some life. On the TV sets in their prison rec rooms this week, the Hornets point guard has been wrecking the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging nearly a triple-double, the shiniest star of these playoffs.
The five are all about the same age as Paul, same race, same height, and from the same hometown.
They have one other thing in common with Chris Paul: All six wish they were free.
It's something Paul told me during a "Homecoming" episode once on ESPN, and every time I watch him play I can't get it out of my mind. Paul, now 25, said: "These guys were 14 and 15 years old [at the time], with a lot of life ahead of them. I wish I could talk to them and tell them, 'I forgive you. Honestly.' I hate to know that they're going to be in jail for such a long time. I hate it."
Whose heart has that much room?
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