Wednesday, 21 May 2014

JOAKIM NOAH Feature-NOAH

You Must Be Joakim.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

"Ooooh yeeeeah! Heeeeey baaaby"! 'What the hell is that sound' this young reporter and the veteran commitee of experienced journalists around him wonder in the postgame press conference of a preseason exhibition clash between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls in England's capital city London back in 2009. As we and are dictophones wait along with the television cameras to hear about what then Jazz point Deron Williams has to say about his teams loss we can hear something from the other room. Some crazy, fun time singing from the next door locker-room, from someone who's acting and performing like he's just won the NBA Finals not just another friendly exhibition drummed up by the NBA to give another basketball withour borders game for it's international market and one that lapped up the tickets for its hometown star Luol Dengs's homecoming. "Ladies and gentelman...Joakim Noah" laughs the man responsible for introducing each player to the podium...but this Chicago Bulls center of attention isn't here to give us a press soundbite, but even so from next door we don't need a quote from him to tell us just how happy he is. Later on as this young reporter gets to interview the man himself one-on-one as he leaves for the team bus the gracious Noah gives this rookie his time, his humble thanks when I tell him his top-selling jersey in Europe will sell even more after tonight and almost even accepts my invitation to show him the cities best pubs. When it comes to professionals in the NBA who are down-to-earth superstars genuine and kind, you have to tip your cup and drink to this.

Cheers to Joakim Noah who now is your 2014 NBA 'Defensive Player Of The Year'. Take that Dwight Howard and all other big men trying to block him out. It seems the epic enthusiasm and evoking energy of the guy that hustles for every ball, jersey tug, screen and scream is the one that is blocking as many shots as he corals off the glass for a rebound. From the concrete hard, down to earth hitting injury of Derrick Rose for the second year running, Joakim Noah has put this team on his shoulders and taken to the defensive and offensive of lifting this team further than anyone thought Thibs squad could go without Rose and even Luol Deng. Joakim is no joke and Noah's arc of talent shows more than just the award winning dirty work which his polished him off a nice trophy for his cabinet. His 18 game streak of 10 or more rebounds a game at an average of 13.9 per clip, joined an All-Star nod confirmed by statistical evidence of big plays like his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sealed triple double of his career. The 15 and 10 threat had 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in a game against the Atlanta Hawks and then followed that up with 13 assists against the Toronto Raptors which made him the first NBA center to record 3 games of 10 or more assists since Brad Miller did that for the Sacramento Kings in the 2005/06 season. In fact the only center since Miller's King throne predecessor Vlade Divac (in 1996) to have 13 assists or more. A couple weeks later he bested that all with 14 assists against the New York Knicks (the most ever by a Bull and best NBA milestone at center since 1986) to go with 13 points and 12 rebounds for an inside and outside domination of the paint that was coloured further with his 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists motoring against the Detroit Pistons. Motown hadn't heard singing quite like that since Marvin Gaye.

Marching to 120 assists that month it was the biggest pass rate for a big man since the greatest Wilt Chamberlain's 155. With 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to follow against the Minnesota Timberwolves no wonder this guy is the second Chicago Bull to win the defensive player of the year award (his first) after the one and only when it comes to the NBA...Michael Jordan. Now that the man taking the Air apparent reign of the greatest Derrick Rose seems to be sidelined to the definition of indefinitly it is Joakim who must and has assumed this superstar leaders mantle for the mettle of the Chicago Bulls. With him grabbing this franchise by the horns they can still stampede their way to the playoffs next season, even though this seasons bid saw them being handed fishing poles early by Derrick Rose that was almost guranteed the day his injury bait took the bite. Still, with all these stats and awards it's what Joakim does for the Bulls beyond the box-score that keeps them moving through the tidal wave of the stormy waters of the NBA. Forget that this guy keeps his former double, double numbers moving three by three, he is the energetic and passionate leader that beats as the heart for the team whether Rose is wilting or blooming. This guy is even more than the beat and the blood. All the way down to the bottom of his sneakers he's the soul of this franchise from his long flowing locks to his 'let your hair down' inspired, infectious influence that keeps his team freewheeling fun, but also passionately proud and engaged and engrossed in this game to the screams and shouts of his arena vibrating vocals. He doesn't just put this whole team on his back, he invited the whole fanbase and city of Chicago to follow him on his journey too. Noah sure is the right name.

Joakim comes from a sporting heritage and the roots he is planting in Rose's garden continues the growth of this family tree. He was born in New York City to a Swedish mother and French father and has all three backgrounds to his citizenship credit. Although you can find him balling with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw when it comes to international competition. His father, Yannick Noah is a French singer and former world number 3 tennis player who won the French Open Roland Garros in 1983 and today is proud of what his son is serving up. His mother C├ęcilia Rodhe was named Miss Sweden in 1978 for another good look and if that wasn't picture perfect enough than Noah's grandfather Zacharie Noah has passed down some skill after being a professional soccer player for Cameroon, winning the Coupe de France in 1961. All these celebrities and all these winners are now being joined by their 29 year old who is scaling higher than the heights of the Eiffel Tower he used to see every day growing up in Paris, France. No wonder the Chicago Bulls picked this 6 foot 11, 232 pound for pound player 9th in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft. He was an engraved basketball champion and a 'Sports Illustrated' cover star before he even received his draft cap. For the University Of Florida he heated up in his sophomore season, making superstar stats of 14.2 points per and 2.4 blocks each game to lead his team. His draft status climbed even higher as him and his now NBA classmates Al Horford and Corey Brewer committed to the college campus for another court run that showed equally how proud, professional and passionate these young ball players where and still are. This kid went from being a relative unknown guy (despite his distinctive look) to an accredited 'Final Four Most Oustanding Player' thanks to his 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks against top seed but eventual runner up Villanova . Scissors may have never touched his curly hair but they sure did cut down the nets of his baskets for the case files of 2006 and 2007 as these Florida blue and oranges peeled off back-to-back NCAA championships.

This Florida Gator proved he was more than just a snappy draft day dresser as he entered the NBA. The cream of his crop was not just in his wardrobe as Noah's impressive rook averages of 6.7 points and 7.6 rebounds tied everything up like his bow-tie. The legendary baby Bulls, Rose blooming playoff series against the Boston Celtics of 2009 also saw Noah steal the ball off the big three's top tier Paul Pierce in the final minute of the third thrilling overtime period and breakaway down the floor for an emphatic dunk. This game changing moment not only ranks as one of the best in that epic series and recent Chicago Bulls or NBA playoff history, it's also one of the greatest moments this young Noah has committed to his career catalogue that read like it one day could be underlined by the Hall Of Fame. You thought the powering forward of Dennis Rodman was passionate for the Chicago Bulls with all his rebound and headline grabbing hair raising and spraying play? Well, even the worms work couldn't put holes in this kid from the Big Apples spark-plug ignited, effervescent, puncuated play. This guy has overcome the dog days and injury years to be the certified award winner he is today and you best believe he'll continue to hit career highs like his amazing 30 points and 23 rebounds or lines like 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks of last season until he moves aside his 'Defensive Player Of The Year Award' to make space for Larry O'Brien. You best believe the man that joins the big legendary likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shawn Bradley, Shaquille O'Neal, and Elvin Hayes in 20-20-10 triple doubles (outshooting these guys at 65% too) can do it. It all seemed so much closer to the Miami Heat when Rose and Deng where around, but that was all a year and an underrated Indiana Pacer team ago. Still the man who speaks fluent French translates more than just the stats heavey milestones he's achieved, his toughness and tenacity tells so much more in a raucous roar that sees this guy as the heart of the whoel league. To think the Bulls are considering trading him up for the Love of Minnesota's Kevin. Like Pau Gasol of the Lakers this oft criticized and underrated player is one of the Associations best...and you could never call this guy soft and doubt his strength. Tougher than the rest Noah stands at the top of the stormy Windy City mountain ready to lead his team. Can you think of another that could lead the Bulls stampede now? To believe this, you must be Joakim.

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