Happy Joakim Noah Night! In advance of the Chicago Bulls' planned tributes to Noah, a fierce, ahead-of-his time center, throughout their game against the New York Knicks on Thursday, they have named him a team ambassador.
The official press release calls Noah "the heart of the Bulls" from 2007 to 2016, during which time he annoyed opponents, trolled opposing fan bases, made three All-NBA teams and played in two All-Star Games. He is a Chicago legend, beloved as much for his otherworldly 2014 season -- operating at something of a point-center and the anchor of an elite defense, he won Defensive Player of the Year, finished fourth in MVP voting and made the All-NBA First Team -- as the tenacity that defined him long before those accolades seemed remotely possible.
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Noah grew up in New York City and Paris, but in Chicago he's treated as if he's from there. The Bulls have pledged to make a donation to the Noah's Arc Foundation, his charity, which has been active in Chicago since 2010.
Between this announcement and all of the Noah stuff flooding the internet, the team probably should have called it Joakim Noah Day. If you would like to reminisce or learn about Noah's career, you're in for a treat -- or several:
Darnell Mayberry's feature on Noah and his college coach, who also happens to be the Bulls' current coach, at The Athletic
Sam Smith's retrospective on the Bulls' official website
And that's just the fresh stuff. In September, Noah appeared on "Knuckleheads," the podcast hosted by Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles.
There is also this Bulls-produced tribute video, featuring Taj Gibson, Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Donovan, Paxson, Reinsdorf, Johnson, Smith, announcers Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington and Noah's mother, Cecilia Rodhe:
Hinrich, Miller, Omer Asik, Deng, Kurt Thomas, Aaron Gray, Thabo Sefolosha, Carlos Boozer, Keith Bogans and Toni Kukoc are among the former Bulls you can expect to be in attendance for Joakim Noah Night, since they've already been photographed celebrating in Chicago. Kukoc never even played with Noah. Hinrich is also a team ambassador.
Thibodeau, Gibson and Rose will all be there, too, obviously. It would have been preposterous to schedule this with any team other than New York in town.
"I'm truly humbled to be honored by both the team and city that I have always loved and respected. Even more so to be able to celebrate tonight with family, friends, former players and coaches, and most of all -- the Bulls fans who helped drive my energy throughout my years in a Bulls uniform at the United Center. It means so much to me that I'm now a Bull for life. I love you all and am thrilled tonight to solidify my continued connection with the Bulls and the city of Chicago, in this new chapter of my life."
Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf's statement:
"When Joakim played for the Bulls, you could see how much he cared about the kids and everything that's going on in the city," Reinsdorf said. "He still comes into town, and he still cares so much. People in Chicago realize that he was more than just a basketball player, he was someone who cared about the community, someone who was going to do his best to make a difference in this world and he has. Joakim embodies every quality you'd want in a team ambassador. This is a natural next step for a former player with such strong history of giving back to Chicago."
Earlier this week, Thibodeau rhapsodized about Noah at a press conference. "I loved him, I fought with him, I loved him, I fought with him," Thibodeau said near the end of the 2 1/2-minute answer.
In the middle, Thibodeau captured what made Noah stand out on the court: "His shot wasn't pretty, but it went in. The beauty of his game was his effort, his heart. He'd make two, three, four, five efforts on a play, and that's special. And then his passing was incredible. I always feel that the way a player passes tells you how he sees the game. If you cut and you were open, you got the ball."