In simpler times, people were up in arms about a post game photo.
Namely, one that Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. took with Chris Paul of the Thunder after the Bulls relinquished a 26-point lead to fall 109-106 in Oklahoma City back in December.
Coby's brother Will came to their defense after the fact. Here’s an excerpt of that defense, which added necessary context to the discourse surrounding the situation:
For everyone talking about my brother and wendell taking pics with Chris after the game (specifically my brother ) yall don’t understand. It’s bigger than basketball at the end of the day Chris has helped him and our family more than any of you guys can or could— Will White (@WRW_11) December 17, 2019
Coby and Will discussed their deep-rooted connection with Paul on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk podcast.
"Whenever I took that picture, the whole internet was going crazy," Coby said. "I was like, 'Y'all just don't know what the meaning is behind it, and what's going on.' He helped all of us out. Anyone who played for CP3, and they're in the league, he always looks out for us no matter what. He's always going to be there for us. So it was bigger than basketball."
Coby played for Paul's AAU team in his high school years, and Paul even offered emotional support to the White family after they tragically lost Donald White — Coby and Will’s father — to a hard-fought battle with liver cancer in 2017.
"He's meant a lot to me," Coby said of Paul. "When I started playing for CP3 when I was 16, he came to a game and he pulled me aside, and we started talking. He knew about my life, who I was and how I played. He said I played with a chip on my shoulder, and I had something to prove every time I played.
“So after that, he gave me his number, his contact and it just went from there. It's little things like that. It's Chris Paul. He doesn't have to take the time out to text me from time to time or call me and ask me how I'm doing. And I'm still in high school, I'm a high school kid, so that's a big part. And he played a big part whenever my father died."
That support extended even beyond Chris, to the Paul family at large.
"He was always there for me, checking in on me," Coby said. "And his family means a lot. His mom is real close to my mom. His dad came to a game just to see me play this year. He came to Chicago just to see me play. We weren't playing Chris. [Chris] wasn't there. [Chris’ father] just wanted to come see me play and check in on me. His dad and mom play a big role and his brother, C.J.
“They're like a second family. They're people I can count on. I can go to them for anything. Anything. Chris will help me out with and he's just somebody I look up to. He's somebody who will always have my back and be on my side."
Paul saw firsthand how Coby improved during the course of the season in the two team's second meeting in Chicago in February. White scored 35 points in 33 minutes in that game — another close Bulls loss, this time 124-122.
Chris Paul on his relationship with Coby White and seeing him drop a career-high 35 points tonight. Paul coached White and Wendell Carter Jr. in AAU: pic.twitter.com/GNzMQF0QoD— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 26, 2020
Coby and Paul caught up on the court after the final buzzer.
"It was funny,” Coby said. "Before the game [Paul] texted me. He said, 'I'm watching your film from the last five games.' I said, 'The last two (in which White had scored 33 points each) are different from the other three.’ He was like basically, 'You ain't getting 33.' I was like, 'That's cool, we're going to see.'
“So after the game, he pulled me over and we were talking. I was like, 'I thought you said I wasn't going to get 33.' He said, 'You didn't.' I was like, 'Yeah, you're right because I got 35.' And then he was like, 'You got 35?' And I was like, 'Yeah. There was a couple of them on your head.' And then we got a joking kind of thing. It's all love. It was dope. It was fun.
“We didn't get the win, that was the most important thing. We didn't get the win, but it was a hard-fought game for both teams. We were going at it the whole game. It's hard to win in the league. You'll learn that as soon as you get there. It's hard to win in the league, especially against good teams."
In a relationship described as "bigger than basketball," those moments and lessons will certainly be cherished for all time.