Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu was inspired by Joakim Noah era teams

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Dosunmu was inspired by Joakim Noah era Bulls teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

As Joakim Noah — basketball on a string, bob of hair bouncing — streaked one step ahead of Paul Pierce down the United Center court for a poster dunk that would eventually enliven an era of Chicago Bulls basketball, nine-year-old Ayo Dosunmu sat, in a car, ear craned expectantly to the game’s radio broadcast.

Though he later had to hunt down the highlight clip to see the play — Noah intercepting a Pierce pass, then sprinting end-to-end for an and-1 slam which forced a Game 7 in that epic first-round series — with his own eyes, Dosunmu knew immediately it was an iconic moment.

“Seeing him play and seeing the passion and the intensity he played with day in and day out, I remember so many iconic moments of him,” Dosunmu said of Noah after Bulls shootaround, before naming the dunk on Pierce his favorite.

IncrediBull Playoff Performances: Joakim Noah's iconic moment

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Dosunmu spoke to reporters mere hours before a highly-anticipated matchup between the Bulls and New York Knicks at the United Center Thursday night. 

Not only will the game pit two early-season standouts in the Eastern Conference against one another — the Bulls entered play seeded first with a 4-0 record, the Knicks third at 3-1 — it’s also the night the Bulls, along with a gaggle of fixtures from the team’s successful early-2010’s run, will honor Noah and his contributions to the franchise and city.

“It’s just crazy,” Dosunmu said of the occasion. “Me being 21 years old, me being a kid, growing up watching it. Now me being a part of the Bulls, seeing it live.”

It’s often said that those Bulls teams, which prided themselves on defense and tough-minded play, resonated across Chicago because they embodied the city’s blue-collar values. 

Dosunmu, who grew up in Chicago as a Bulls fan, recalled being inspired watching them.

“That group of guys, that whole 8-10 years, they made Chicago basketball fun to watch,” Dosunmu said. “Me being a student of the game, me always following it, that gave me motivation, another way to try to strive to be the best I can be, seeing how hard they worked and how fun they made it and how they competed no matter who they played against.”

These new-look Bulls are on a similar mission, albeit constructed in a different form and fashion. On a night dedicated to celebrating what’s passed, Dosunmu, who was selected by the team with the 38th pick in the 2021 draft and has flirted with a consistent rotation role, is looking forward to absorbing the fresh buzz surrounding the future as well.

“I definitely do sense the excitement,” he said of the franchise’s direction. “I was a part of the city when Derrick (Rose) was here, when Luol (Deng) was here, when Joakim was here, you know, you had all those — Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer. All of those guys. Kirk Hinrich. 

“I’ve seen it. I’ve the vibes of the city, you know, embrace the team and try to be the best they can for the team and support the team in every way. So now that I’m a part of it, just me being from here, I have a sense and pretty much the same feeling.”

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