Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was never shied away from being, shall we say, impolite when it comes to his opposition. Recall, if you will, his less-than-charitable commentary on the city of Cleveland back in 2010. Or his disdain for the "Hollywood as hell" Miami Heat in 2011. Or the penchant for coloring-within-the-lines on-court agitating that leads to stuff like his standing ovation for Heat counterparts Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers. He loves his team and the city he represents, and everyone/everything/everywhere else only matters so much; this much has long been obvious, and it's one of the things that makes the eclectic 29-year-old center so much fun to watch, follow and root for, even if you don't happen to be a Bulls backer.
Noah expanded a little bit on the degree to which he relishes the rise he gets out of opposing fan bases, especially when its his All-Star-level two-way play that's making them so mad, during a recent chat with GQ as part of a photo shoot showcasing black-tie-clad NBA players that appears in the magazine's March edition (covered, as you might have heard, by LeBron James):
On-the-Court Style: Being the villain. "When you look at the people all the way at the top of the arena, and they look so small, right? And they're just jumping up and down, being like, ‘F--- you!' — there's nothing better than that."
It's a good thing Noah enjoys the feeling he gets from those moments so much, because I'm sure he's seen more than his fair share of them over the past few years. Since Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach of the Bulls four seasons ago, Chicago has gone 85-60 on the road, grinding down opponents and their supporters even as the Bulls work through a seemingly endless array of injuries to important cogs, led (of course) by twice-lost former MVP point guard Derrick Rose.
The Bulls rang up another victim on Tuesday, hanging on for a 107-103 win over the reeling Atlanta Hawks thanks to an iron-man effort from Mike Dunleavy Jr. (22 points, eight rebounds, four assists in 47 minutes and 51 seconds of playing time) to lead seven scorers in double-figures. Noah, as usual, did a lot of everything, putting up 20 points on 9 for 13 shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
He also had just one turnover in 36 1/2 minutes of play on Wednesday despite triggering the Bulls' attack, both in the half court and even on the fast break, in his unique role as something like Chicago's point-center. Noah's pinpoint facilitating from the high post calls to mind another personality-packing big man from years gone by, whom Joakim also name-checked during his chat with GQ:
On His Unlikely NBA Hero: "Shout-out to Vlade Divac! He was killing those guys, smoking a pack of cigarettes, throwing bounce passes, just doing it!"
Perhaps appropriately enough, Noah last week became the first center since Divac, the former Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings pivot, to notch 13 assists in a single game. Joakim might have learned everything he knows about passing from Brad Miller, but I'm pretty OK with considering him an on-court spiritual descendent of Vlade, too. Just stay away from the squares and keep them lungs clean, Jo.
Lastly, let's take a look at the clean fit Noah's rocking in the pages of Gentlemen's Quarterly:
Very snazzy. It's like I always say: Joakim + formal wear = good looks.
Hat-tip to Luis Gomez of the Chicago Tribune.
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