DeAndre Jordan had come so far. All he wanted was a high-five.
In the seven years since Jordan entered the league as the second-round pick out of Texas A&M, he had shed the "project" big man label to become someone universally regarded as a maximum-contract player. His development should have been the ultimate validation of how Los Angeles' second team had changed.
But Jordan was always left wanting something more. He wanted more than six shots per game. He wanted to be part of the team's marketing strategy. He wanted to be treated like a star. If you believe ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, he really just wanted a high-five from Chris Paul. Eventually, CP3's "constant barking" and passive-aggressive personality helped drive Jordan to Dallas in free agency.
This is the duality of Chris Paul in all of its bare glory. He is a man whose relentless competitive fire made him one of the NBA's best players despite being one of its smallest, but someone whose personality has turned him into a difficult co-worker.
The bad side of the double-edged sword triumphed in this case. If Paul never felt satisfied by Jordan's play, just wait until he's left going through the Western Conference gauntlet with Ekpe Udoh at center.
Make no mistake, Jordan's decision to join the Mavericks is a death blow for the Clippers, at least in the short-term. Paul just turned 30 and knows his time in this league as a superstar won't last forever. Forget about being the best player never to win a title. What about being the best player never to reach the conference finals?
It's cruel for all of this to play out publicly after Paul just turned in one of the gutsiest playoff efforts in recent memory. He eliminated the Spurs in Game 7 with a bank shot on one healthy leg, in what was hailed as the defining moment of his career. If the Clippers don't blow a 19-point lead in the third quarter of Game 6 with the Rockets facing elimination, it's possible Jordan never leaves and CP3 comes off looking like a warrior instead of an indefatigable jerk.
Yet, that wouldn't have changed anything but the window dressing because the reported falling out between Jordan and Paul had been brewing for some time. Paul has always been wired this way. Just ask Julius Hodge. When you're 6-foot-nothing and plagued by knee injuries in a league full of athletic giants, every edge becomes invaluable.
It's a mindset that has turned Paul into a serial flopper and a harsh critic of both officials and teammates. It's also made him one of the nastiest defenders in the league despite being at a physical disadvantage in nearly every matchup.
In a sense, Paul is a dying breed of an archetype first popularized by Michael Jordan and kept alive by Kobe Bryant. Remember: Jordan punched two teammates at practice and was notoriously hard to play with during his early- and mid-20s. Bryant's own ruthless desire to win on his own terms has reportedly turned off some free agents. At this point, Bryant has become so shameless in embracing his inner competitor that it's hard to tell where the gimmick stops and his personality starts.
Maybe that's the problem for DeAndre Jordan and others of this generation that grew up as friends playing in the same AAU tournaments around the country. They wouldn't think to compare their job to fighting a bear.
In a sense, it's easy to see what made Jordan a target of Paul's. Jordan is about as big and athletic as human beings come, blessed with a 7'6 wingspan and enough athleticism to turn his most incredible dunks into instant memes. He has physical gifts that Paul doesn't.
Should Jordan be better than he is? That's tough to say when you consider just how far he's come. A player with Jordan's physical ability should never slip to the second round, but it happened because he was surrounded by red flags since his time with the Aggies. The same scouts who questioned Jordan's attitude and character probably never factored in how hurtful it was for him to watch the coach who recruited him -- Billy Gillispie -- bolt for Kentucky as soon as he got on campus.
Where Paul might have seen an underachiever, Jordan saw himself as a player who constantly had to beat an unfair reputation. Doc Rivers' incessant campaigning for Jordan as Defensive Player of the Year last season was psychological as much as anything else. Jordan seems like a sensitive and emotional dude, which simply isn't the type of personality that's going to jive with Paul.
What both Paul and Jordan are quickly going to learn is just how beneficial a compromise can be, even when it isn't easy. The Clippers would have been a title contender with Jordan, while the Mavericks have a lot of work to do to get to that point. The Clippers didn't achieve their ultimate goals, but no franchise knows better that one should appreciate what they have while it's still there.
Jordan should be a fine player away from Paul, and Paul should still be one of the game's best without Jordan. It's just shame that two players whose games complement each other so well could never find common ground off the court.
SB Nation presents: The Clippers folded in the playoffs but still have a future