In November 2019, Luol Deng signed a ceremonial one-day contract to retire as a Chicago Bull.
Whether or not Joakim Noah does so before his official night on Thursday at the United Center, Deng had one hope for his longtime running mate when he stopped by the Bulls Talk Podcast in April. That's when NBA arenas weren't yet at full capacity.
“I would encourage Jo to push it until everything opens up," Deng said then of Noah's return to Chicago. "I think the fans deserve it. I think he deserves it. He gave the organization everything."
Noah had visited the United Center in March, shortly after he announced his retirement following his stellar 13-year career. He sat with Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf and senior adviser John Paxson in a suite, but he always knew he'd return when the Madhouse on Madison would be rocking.
Thursday night is that night. The Bulls are holding "Joakim Noah Night." And Deng will be there.
“Even playing in a lot of different teams, I can honestly tell the fans I haven’t met or played with someone like Jo, where it was just all out," Deng said on the podcast. "I’m not even talking about being the best scorer. It was just all out. And it was consistent. It was the same energy, effort, good or bad. It was the same Jo."
Deng and Noah each made two All-Star games during their six-plus seasons together in Chicago, including a shared appearance in the 2013 game. Their bond, however, goes beyond basketball, which is why they often spend time together in Miami these days.
"I always tell people that Jo is one of a kind," Deng said during a casual conversation following that podcast taping. "He is unique because of his passion, how he wears his emotions on his sleeve and how he cares about his teammates and the team. I'm proud to call him a teammate and a friend."
More on Joakim Noah night:
- Kirk Hinrich on Joakim Noah: 'He just wanted to win'
- Brad Miller on Joakim Noah: 'He made it a blast'