Failed recruitment began animosity between Noah, Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Before the landmark "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh formed with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, Joakim Noah attempted to lure that trio to the Chicago Bulls.
That recruitment, Noah told JJ Redick and Tommy Alter in an appearance on the The Old Man & The Three podcast, was so close to coming to fruition that Bosh told the Bulls' starting center he was committed to Chicago.
"Chris Bosh basically told me, 'Yo, I'm coming to Chicago,'" Noah said on the podcast. "If Chris Bosh came to Chicago, I mean, do they (James and Wade) go to Miami, do they stay in Miami? I don't know. I tried to recruit all of them. I didn't care, it didn't matter. Whatever it took to get the Bulls better, I was doing."
As was well-documented at the time, Derrick Rose did not join Noah in the recruiting effort, believing that whatever team the Bulls eventually fielded would be good enough to contend.
And for a time, until knee injuries derailed Rose's meteoric rise, they were. In the 2010-11 season, the first of that Miami Big Three, the Bulls amassed the East's best record (62-20) and sprinted to the conference finals for a highly-anticipated matchup with the Heat.
After a thrilling Game 1 win in Chicago, though, Miami won four straight in a gentleman's sweep. Rose tore his ACL the following spring and nothing was the same. But a rivalry was forged between the Bulls and Heat that year.
"People don't know that, but yes, I did try to recruit LeBron, yes, I did try to recruit D-Wade. And I think a lot of the animosity came from that," Noah said on the podcast. "It was just like, yo, man... Chris straight up told me he was f***ing coming to Chicago. So I think that fueled the fire that much more."
That is the brand of competitive fire that deeply endeared Noah to Bulls fans. But as he has matured, he told Redick and Alter he has intentionally tried to compartmentalize bad blood inside the lines of the court and his life outside of it.
In a vulnerable moment toward the tail end of his career, Noah said Wade actually helped him in that process.
"I had a knee injury, I had a shoulder injury, two surgeries, I had a drug suspension. I didn't want to play basketball anymore," Noah said, referencing his turbulent tenure with the Knicks. "And I remember, I get past all that, and I'm back in the gym and I'm a shell of myself. It's probably my second or third time after those two surgeries back in the gym. I'm at Pepperdine in Malibu.
"D-Wade has his coach on the other side of the court, and I'm on the other side of the court. And I'm embarrassed. I'm like, 'Yo, I can barely move.' And it was, like, you know, it was bad. We were competing against these guys (the Heat), but it was bad blood. They weren't f***ing with us, we weren't f***ing with them. It was personal.
I remember him being in the gym, and I didn't even know where to put myself. And I remember him on the sideline being like, 'Yo, good luck. Keep it up.' And I don't even know if he knows this, but it meant a lot to me, and it said a lot. I was like, 'Yo, you know what, there are things that are bigger than this.' It was deep."
The past is the past — and this chapter in Bulls history is long since closed. But it is certainly hard not to wonder what if.
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