LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. -- Yannick Noah did what a lot of dads do while trying to make their basketball-loving sons happy during their formative years -- he bought plenty of basketball cards and memorabilia. Yannick recalled this memory Monday night after watching his son, Joakim Noah, receive the 2013-2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
"I used to go out and try to get some cards signed -- it cost me a fortune -- of these guys," Yannick said. "[Joakim] used to collect these things. I had to get him autographs and cards, he was collecting these cards. What do you do with these cards? All these cards. He knew all the players of all the teams. Sixth man of every team, seventh man. He knew the game and loved the game. The shirts and the magazines and the tapes back in the day, the VHS tapes."
Yannick, a former French Open tennis champion and European pop star, was having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that his son, the Chicago Bulls' star center, is now one of the great players in the game of basketball.
"So he had all this and when I hear names mentioned, I'm actually shocked," Yannick continued. "Because these other guys, I would say maybe a little younger, but my generation, I used to love watching on TV and telling him about. It's amazing. As a father, I'm happy. I'm happy because he's living his dream. He dreamt about this. I don't think he believed it would happen ... but I know he was pushing. When I hear his name mentioned in the same sentence with all these players I just think this is a joke somehow."
It's no joke. Joakim noted during his acceptance speech that he got his work ethic from his father. The two thrive off emotion in their play, and they speak with passion on various topics as well. For Yannick, the entire experience of Monday's award ceremony was a joyous one.
"I don't think you get tired of it," Yannick said of being a proud parent. "The thing is, when things like this happen I just don't believe it's true. It was a long road. It's been a lot of years, a lot of work, a lot of pain, a lot of practice, a lot of sweat, a lot of worries."
Monday was particularly emotional after the rough week his son has had to endure. Joakim's mentor, Tyrone Green, passed away last week, and he dedicated his award to him.
"Very tough year, very tough week," Yannick continued. "And [Joakim's] still standing. And I'm really proud of him because he's still standing."
What's next: The Bulls have a shootaround Tuesday morning in advance of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Wizards.
The last word: Tom Thibodeau on Noah: "When I look at him now, we've had some interesting conversations over time, but at the end of the day I know how badly he wants to win. He's done a good job and he'll continue to do a good job for us."