TrueHoop: Jaokim Noah
Alfonso Felipe grew up spending his Saturday mornings in the gym of P.S. 149 in Queens. That's where Felipe, and a young player with the odd name of Joakim, learned basketball from the man they still call Mr. Green.
Felipe has a blog, and uses it to explain that Noah is unlike anyone else he knows, and unlike most people expect:
The irony in someone like Joakim is that he is exactly what he is supposed to be: Joakim is a cross between French culture, a Swedish supermodel, the upper crust of society, but the humility to never be above anyone.
Looking at him many would think he's not the smartest guy, but you have no idea how sophisticated the guy really is. He's very educated: from Saville Row to Jazz and back to the origination of 50 Cent, which is why I love him even more -- an anomaly to society. On the surface, he looks like a guy with long hair, a basketball player but sit down and have a conversation with him about tennis, restaurants, or wine -- he knows what's going on around him, it's just he chooses to express himself differently.
Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com spends some time with Joakim Noah, and Noah tells a great little anecdote from his college days at Florida:
My favorite story: We were playing [Rajon] Rondo at Rupp Arena in Kentucky.
We were up 20 with like three minutes left. We had just made a run. When you go into Rupp, you feel like it's you against the world. Tubby [Smith] calls a timeout, and I'm talking trash, like, "It's quiet as hell in here, quiet as hell."
And I'm getting hype, and I remember some 60-year-old woman, she screams, "Noah, show some f---ing class!"
The same article also says that Noah plans to train with David Thorpe at IMG's Pro Training Center in Florida this summer. Hope he doesn't mind the cold.
Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog has an honest and insightful question for athletes: Does dedicating your life to chasing around a little ball ever seem kind of pointless?
He recently talked to young Bull Joakim Noah. (Well worth clicking over to read the whole thing.)
I've asked this to some different guys in different sports, but I'm curious what you'd have to say, because you're a guy that's got a lot of interests. Do you ever sort of get bored, I guess, with basketball, bored with being a professional athlete? Because it's kind of the same thing over and over.
It is. It is. And sometimes it's hard, like when you're in Utah and you get in at like 2 o'clock in the morning, and you're far from your friends and everybody that you know. You've just got to realize that you're lucky. You're lucky. You're fortunate to be doing what you love to do. Not a lot of people can say that. There's times where your body's tired, your body's achy, your ankle hurts, and you just don't want to.
But I used to talk about that with my pops a little, because my pops went through the same thing, and he always said would you trade it for anything else? And there's no way. There's no way. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I mean, even though sometimes it's hard--you're leaving home, you're leaving your boys at home, they get to drive your car or have the house to yourselves. You know? They're doing big things, having fun. I mean, it's the life we chose, and I wouldn't have it any other way, even though sometimes it's hard.
Then the conversation moved quickly to how a lot of NBA players could make their own version of Entourage, if they wanted to:
So what do your boys do with your house when you're gone?
Live large. I don't know half of it. I don't even want to know. But I let them enjoy it. ...
Does it get grimy?
In the house? Nah, thank God I've got a cleaning lady, so it doesn't get too grimy. There's definitely some grimy stories. There's definitely some griminess. But I'm not going to tell you. That'd be like snitching on myself. Why would I do that?
Because I'm looking for something interesting.
I understand that.
So when you get back, the house looks the same as when you left it?
Oh, they've got to do that. I think if it really came down to it, I think NBA players, there's a lot of players who could pull a better version of, like, an "Entourage." A lot of players.
And you're one of them?
Um, remember, I'm not snitching on myself. I'm not gonna snitch on myself. But I'm telling you man, if there were NBA players who filmed it, a lottttt of people would watch. A lot of people.
Also, Peter May writes about the trouble young players have saying "no" to friends who ask them for money.
A couple of years ago, Gilbert Arenas famously threw himself a multimillion dollar birthday party.
The pictures and video (PG-13) from that party had some psychic effect on me. DJs, live music, red carpets, body paint ... this, clearly, is what NBA birthdays are like.
Yesterday was Joakim Noah's 24th birthday. The schedule granted him a game a stone's throw from New York, where he grew up.
But in fact, it could not have been smaller.
You see, even though they don't play again until Friday, the Bulls were flying to Washington immediately after the game in New Jersey (in no small part to meet President Obama today).
So, instead of a big night in Manhattan, Joakim Noah's posse settled for watching him sit on the bench during the crucial stretch of a loss to a mediocre team. After hearing from Coach Del Negro, and getting changed, Noah and family gathered for a quiet ten minutes of present opening in section 114 of the nearly deserted Izod Center.
As the stadium crews mopped up the spilled popcorn and sticky soda spills, Noah, his parents, some friends and other relatives, including a flock of siblings right down to toddler age, handed around gift bags.
NBA players have everything, except time. So this was the big party.
A belt. A coffee table book or two: One about Barack Obama, and another with black and white photography of people with dreadlocks. Some funny and surprisingly great-looking for-fashion-only eyeglasses. A little bag that said something about underwear. Things, in other words, from nice New York City boutiques. Noah was making the Christmas faces: "Oh, great. I love this!" He put on one of the belts, wore the glasses the whole time, and carried the underwear bag to the bus with him. The books -- heavy to travel with -- went home with others.
His younger siblings looked on eagerly, with present-envy.
Nearby, Tim Thomas, Luol Deng, and John Salmons were also surrounded by various people they knew. Interspersed were a number of autograph seekers, many of whom were successful.
Thomas, then Salmons, and then Deng made their way back down into the bowels of the arena, though. The clock was ticking. A bus was waiting.
Matt, a childhood buddy of Noah's, has been hanging back, letting Noah have his time with his family. He watched Joakim say his familial goodbyes, and make his way towards the aisle.
Where was instantly surrounded by people who waited some time for an autograph or a photo.
"He's going to get fined for this, for sure."
From section 114, you could not see the Bulls' bus, likely loaded with every Bull but the birthday boy, but you could feel it.
Noah looked at the crowd knotted around him, and started signing with gusto. He likes to make people happy. He interacts with kids and babies. Working fast, he signed and signed and smiled and posed.
Eventually he started saying "I have to go" but then still didn't go. Another couple of pictures, a few more genuine looking smiles.
Matt himself had been waiting for a conversation with his Noah, but settled for a quick hug, before Noah, birthday over, rejoined the Bulls for a flight to the capital.
We're going to be chatting with Mike Conley, Jr., Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Kevin Durant, and Al Horford this afternoon, starting most likely around 5pm ET. Ain't that something?
I bet you have some questions for them. Let me hear them in the comments of this post. If it's a question for one particular player, please make that clear, like, for instance: "NOAH: What kind of conditioner do you use?"
Should be fun.