Resume: 10.2 points, 9.8 rebounds (10th in league), 2.5 assists (career best), 1.4 blocks, 30.4 minutes, 51% FG, and 75% FT (career best)… Team record in games played: 48-16 (2-0 without)… Playoffs: 15.0 points (career best), 9.3 rebounds, 73% FG, 1-2 record (1-2 without)
Even though I’m officially a Connecticut Huskies basketball fan (for now, that could definitely change seeing as though their whole program is falling apart), back in the day I enjoyed myself some Florida Gators basketball. You could make the case that in college sports I’m a bandwagon fan, and you could definitely say I’m influenced by who my friends or family like (in this case it was my cousin Pauley Clark). But my favorite player for those back to back National Championship teams was Joakim Noah. How couldn’t you love the goofy looking guy with the big hair who screamed his face off after a dunk and flexed his muscles when he swatted a shot out of bounds. Plus, he danced the greatest jig of all-time after Florida won the SEC Championship in 2007, leaving Bill Raftery laughing hysterically and Verne Lundquist with nothing to do but repeatedly say “Ladies and gentlemen, Joakim Noah.”
A few years later, I saw a different side of Joakim Noah. When the Bulls became relevant in the Eastern Conference and Noah and LeBron started going at it both on and off the court, I saw the Joakim Noah that every non-Florida fan hated. He’s the dirty, loud, irritating, goofy looking guy with the big hair who flexed his muscles after he swatted a shot out of bounds and screamed his face off after a dunk. The funny thing is that it wouldn’t matter at all if he never stepped on the court. If Joakim Noah was a player the caliber of Aaron Gray, he would be irrelevant. But Joakim Noah is far from Aaron Gray. Noah fits the mold of every player past and present who gets under the skin of every opposing player not only because he’s a jerk, but because he’s a good player on top of that. Of course, as a basketball fan, you despise this guy with every fiber of your being if he’s not on your favorite team. It may be because they are annoying. It may be because they are dirty. It may be because you think they are the antichrist. You know the type; Bad Boy Pistons, Bad Boy Knicks, Anderson Varejao, Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, Glen Davis and Nate Robinson during their brief Shrek and Donkey stage, Bruce Bowen, DeShawn Stevenson, and every Argentinian/Spanish player (I’m looking at you Rudy Fernandez). Joakim Noah definitely belongs on that list.
Whether you love Joakim Noah or whether you hate him, you have to appreciate that is a vital component of the defensive minded, toughness driven Chicago Bulls. He’s the defensive anchor of the team which is statistically the best in basketball. He’s a near elite rebounder and also the instant energy guy that can find a spot on any roster. Sure, Chicago was out of the championship picture when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in game one of the first round, but the final nail in Chicago’s first round coffin was when Joakim Noah sprained his left ankle in game two.
The highest praise you could give someone in the game of basketball is saying you’d want them on your team in a big game. I can honestly say that Joakim Noah is one of those guys. He’s a big game player, a tough dude and a smart basketball player who is not only able, but definitely willing to do all of the dirty work for his team. You want to go to war with Joakim Noah on your side, if only because he is a giant pain to deal with if he’s on the other side.