Joakim Noah is without comparison in today's NBA. Fifteen years ago Noah's personality would have blended in with the likes of Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, Reggie Miller, and Shaquille O'neal, with Kobe and KG just coming onto the scene, to name a few other strong personalities that sought extra motivation both on and off the court.
But now, with much tighter officiating and rules, players have quieted considerably. The new youth infusion in the NBA features relatively quiet stars like Durant, Lebron, Melo, CP3, Griffin, and Westbrook. There also seems to be a private social circle where NBA players all seem to be friends and their team's greatest recruiter of talent.
Jo is a gritty, hard-nosed player that rocks his own style from head (long-haired ponytail) to toe (sports 'Le Coq Sportif' shoes, only player in the NBA to do so).
And he's no sideshow.
Joakim would have been the #1 draft pick had he not stayed an extra year at Florida to win another National Championship. Instead, he was drafted #9 by the Chicago Bulls, despite being a centerpiece to Florida's dominant collegiate reign.
When he came to Chicago, Joakim was the player everyone mocked for his dance moves, his ugly jumpshot, and his weak, wirey-looking frame. After Curry, Chandler, Fizer, Wallace, and Tyrus, most people in Chicago thought there was no way this big man would make it.
Those that were close to him knew far in advance what he'd become. His draft workouts probably summed it up best, from 2007:
"In our mind obviously the most impressive player we’ve seen workout thus far, Joakim Noah went a long ways in reminding us why we liked him so much to begin with when we first began discussing his professional potential 18 months ago. The constant swirl of negativity around him coming from the direction of the general public caused us to forget that momentarily, but we’re more certain than ever now that teams will be making a grave mistake if they decide to pass on him outside of the top few picks in the draft. Showing that his reputation on the court is anything but an act, Noah was clearly the most intense player we’ve evaluated in the way he approached the workout. He attacked the hoop ferociously on every opportunity, punishing the rim with powerful one-handed slams accompanied by loud, primal grunts (much like a tennis player…)" (FromDraftExpress.com http://www.draftexpress.com#ixzz2ExBHPPco)
Now, Joakim Noah is one of the few true centers in the NBA, at 6'11" and a lean, cut 240 lbs. He's added roughly 25 lbs of pure muscle since his draft day.
He's 7th in the league in rebounding and blocked shots, he's tied with Marc Gasol amongst centers for the most assists/game with 4.4, he's shooting 82% from the free throw line, shown that he can knock down a mid-range jumpshot, and he's playing extended minutes averaging 40/game, 3 more than the next center in the NBA.
So when the Chicago Bulls needed to rebound from a tough loss at home to the Clippers, Joakim Noah did what, perhaps, only he can do. He drew on motivation from last year's loss to Philadelphia, to the treatment he was given for getting injured and knocked out of the playoffs, and swore a career-long revenge mission against the Sixers and all of their fans.
Joakim's night? 21 pts, 7 rebs, 5 ast, 3 blks, 7/7 from the free thow line, a huge mid-range jumpshot, and letting the Philly fans know every step of the way.
So here are the top 5 reasons you should love Joakim Noah:
5. Joakim busts a move
This wasn't a person showing off his dance moves, putting a title in your face and celebrating in a Lebron-like way. This was a guy who just doesn't give a crap. He's the same guy now, with fewer dance performances.
4. Hollywood as Hell
Never backing down from anyone, Joakim Noah makes sure everyone knows he doesn't just want to beat Miami, he strongly dislikes them, He will, however, always give credit where credit is due.
3. The Dunk
"And Paul Pierce has just fouled out of the game." Now, if you're a Boston fan, I understand, but this is one of the most amazing individual basketball plays, maybe ever, by a big man in the NBA. A 7-footer ripping Paul Pierce, outrunning him in the 3rd overtime to dunk and one on him? Chills...
2. Real Talk: Kevin Garnett
You get the sense that Joakim Noah is half-kidding, but he's not. Joakim Noah straight talks on any topic in a laid back Brooklyn accent. As a rookie, he even called out Ben Wallace and other Bulls teammates for laughing on the bench during a game they were losing. He took a lot of flack and even a benching, despite being proven spot-on for stepping up to the overpaid lazy big man.
During a first round playoff matchup versus Lebron James' Cavaliers, Joakim Noah made no doubts about how he felt about Lebron and the city he played in. First, he was interviewed talking about how depressing the place was, and the next night he had a chance to rescind his comments, but only spoke up more about his dislike of Cleveland. Thats a player that not only plays for your team, but also plays for your city.