The 10 moments that made Chicago fall in love with Joakim Noah
10. The Post-Bulls years
Noah departing Chicago in the summer of 2016 for a lucrative four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks did little to extinguish the city’s appreciation for him. Though his stint with the Knicks came and went unceremoniously, he’s had his share of patented ‘Jo’ moments in the past year as he’s looked to reignite his career.
“Joakim is [expletive] crazy”: Then-Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff put it best after a January 2019 game during Noah’s resurgent one-year run in Memphis.
“Yeah, we are”: When Devin Booker objected to receiving a double team in an open run last offseason, Noah put him in his place.
- “Say hi to your uncle”: Noah and Derrick Rose reunited at the United Center when the Pistons came to town earlier this season and shared a heartwarming moment.
9. Drafted No. 9 overall by the Bulls
A polarizing selection at the time, the Bulls invested the No. 9 pick in the first round of the 2007 draft on a gangly, big-haired 22-year-old center out of Florida named Joakim Noah.
Noah was a part of two national title teams with the Gators and would go on to live up to his top-ten billing in nine years with the Bulls, to say the least. Fresh suit, too.
8. Game 7 double-double in Brooklyn
This series — a seven game first-round bout with the Nets in 2013 — is remembered chiefly for Nate Robinson’s exploits. But Noah was splendid in a decisive Game 7 road win, notching 24 points, 14 rebounds (seven offensive), six blocks and two assists while taking a team-high 17 shots (making 12, good for 70.6% shooting from the field). All in 41 minutes.
And remember: Noah wasn't even certain to play entering that Nets series with plantar fasciitis. He guaranteed (and then executed) a victory anyway. Peak Jo.
7. Giving Rose a lift
Another signature postseason moment. Noah wasn’t at the center of this one, Derrick Rose was: He banked in a fadeaway 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer to give the Bulls a 99-96 victory and 2-1 series lead over the LeBron-led Cavaliers in the second round of the 2015 playoffs.
That led to an enduring, iconic image of Rose deadpanning while being hoisted up by teammates in celebration. And who was at the center of the scrum? Noah, of course, who first lifted Rose as the United Center erupted.
6. Clapping in Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers’ faces
An image that says 1,000 words, and then some. This video (which has become a notorious gif) of Noah maniacally clapping along as Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat heatedly sorted out an on-court disagreement is emblematic of so much of what makes Noah great.
The passion. The presence of mind. The instigatory nature of the action itself. It’s too Jo to be true, and will live in our hearts (and Twitter timelines) for all time.
5. “Hollywood as hell”
Noah and the Heat will forever be connected by this quote, which Noah gave after a Game 5 series-clinching loss to Miami in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
“You gotta give credit where credit is due. Miami is a hell of a team. They’re Hollywood as hell, but they’re still very good,” he said.
If or when the NBA season resumes, we’ll see if there are any callbacks to this classic with Noah on a 10-day contract with the Clippers, and LeBron James leading the crosstown rival Lakers.
4. Collecting some hardware
Noah took home NBA Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-NBA honors after the 2013-14 season in addition to finishing fourth in MVP voting. For a player once unheralded, and forever defined by his subtle contributions to winning, that hardware represented tremendous, tangible recognition.
3. The Paul Pierce dunk
In the waning moments of a triple-overtime 128-127 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first round in 2009, Noah poked away and stole a pass from Paul Pierce, then went coast-to-coast for an and-one finish on the other end. On Pierce’s forehead.
That broke a 123-123 tie and spurred the Bulls to a victory that kept them alive, if only for a game. They went on to fall in Boston in Game 7, but an era of Bulls basketball was born.
2. Vacation in Cleveland?
So many Jo-isms (No. 1 will be one, as well), but this is one of the all-time greats — honestly, by any athlete.
“Not at all. You like it? You think Cleveland is cool?” Noah said when asked if he regretted saying city of Cleveland “sucks” after a 2010 playoff game. “I mean, I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about Cleveland?”
Also from that presser, Noah notoriously said “my whole life I’ve been booed.” This is the stuff of legends, seriously.
1. “That’s the guy I play for"
An unconventional choice? Maybe. First the full quote, via the Chicago Tribune: “When I look at the top of the arena, and I see the guy who looks this big and he's up cheering up and down, that's the guy I play for… To me, that's what this city represents. There's a lot of hardship in here, a lot of adversity in this city, and I feel like when I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team."
Notably, and this is according to our Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson, that quote came after a week of Noah dodging the media for fear of "saying the wrong thing" in the wake of Luol Deng being traded to Cleveland in 2014. In its full entirety, Noah went on to tout his love for the organization, city and Deng. His eloquence and emotion in that moment perfectly encapsulates Noah's heart and what endeared him so much this city.