All Heart

When Ashley and I first started dating, she had no idea how much I loved basketball (Chicago Bulls included). She knew, but it wasn’t obvious until April 30, 2009. That night was the debut of Wolverine, which Ashley had wanted to see pretty badly. I don’t have much interest in comic books or the movies that accompany them, but we were still just getting to know each other, so even if Ashley wanted to dress up as hookers and hit up the Seaside boardwalk I probably would’ve done it, so going to this movie wasn’t that outrageous.

That is, unless it’s also the same night as Game 6 of the 1st round of the playoffs in which your favorite team has been playing in what’s being called one of the BEST playoff series EVER. But the movie wasn’t starting until midnight, so I was more than confident before the start of the game that I’d be able to watch it at home, pick up Ashley and make it in time for Wolverine. While 5 of the 7 games in that series went into overtime, Game 6 was of course the longest, going into TRIPLE overtime, but I had a movie to make. After the 2nd OT and with hardly any time left for me to watch, I quickly got into my ’99 Mercury Sable, drove like hell to get to Ashley’s, parked the car and ran into the house. It wasn’t until she saw me run through the door and immediately rush to the TV that she knew I was somewhat psychotic about basketball. Luckily, the Bulls won. We left soon after, went to the movie, and returned back to the beach house to complete another fun night of Ashley and I getting to know each other.

That night, Ashley had influenced me to open up to things that I might not ever have explored before, specifically going to see a comic book movie on its opening night.

It was also the night that Ashley had discovered Joakim Noah.

Ashley is drawn to people and things that are real, eccentric, and if it’s a man, somewhat rugged. While the sights of Taylor Hanson or Don Draper do the trick, she also loves the kinds of guys who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty, especially at the expense of art, or having fun, which is exactly what she (and many others) find in Joakim Noah.

Known for his tenacity and total selflessness, Noah has grown to be not only one of the Bulls’ best players, but also one of the better big men in the NBA, earning his first All-Star appearance last season. Most opposing fans don’t like him, but they will be quick to admit that they’d love him if he were on their team. While he’s averaging a modest 9 points and 9 rebounds a game so far this year, his stats aren’t what make him so special. As cliché as it sounds, it’s the little things Jo does that make him the kind of player he is: his passing, when he helps a teammate up off the floor, when he’s cheering like crazy from the bench, and his overall hustle. There are some players whose stats simply cannot interpret the kind of player they are, and Noah is a leading candidate.

Above all else, Joakim Noah is a competitor and a winner. Born in New York City to French singer and former tennis pro Yannick Noah and former model and Miss Sweden Cécilia Rodhe, he grew up in Paris until the age of 13, when he returned back to NYC. He bounced around a few high schools (one of which being Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn) but wasn’t highly regarded as he entered college. (He went to the University of Florida, so it wasn’t like NO ONE noticed him. But no one was predicting him to one day be an NBA All Star, either). After a dismal freshman year, he led the team in scoring as a sophomore, and even better, led the team to the National Championship and won, playing well enough to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Noah became the centerpiece of this powerhouse squad, and along with talented teammates Al Horford and Corey Brewer, they all decided to come back for their junior years to try and win another championship, which they succeeded in doing. After their junior years and back-to-back championships, they all opted for the ensuing draft and became the highest selected trio of teammates ever selected. Noah was picked 9th by the Chicago Bulls, where he’s been ever since. During his 6 years, the Bulls have only missed the playoffs once (his rookie year) and have established themselves as one of the leading contenders in the NBA.

Whether he’s having fun at a house party or enjoying preseason basketball in Brazil, Joakim Noah knows how to live a well-balanced life.“I come from different cultures, I have different beliefs, I talk like I’m from New York, I speak fluent French, I’m African, I’m Swedish. So I come from all these different places, and I understand all these cultures pretty well. They make me who I am, but at the same time, I’m not one thing; I’m all these things.”

Like any fan of any sports team, we all hope to see our team(s) do well, which in its most basic terms means to win as many games as possible. However, much like life itself, you never know what to expect. Between all the trades and games and drafts, one never knows what’s next. One year’s team may look completely different a few months later. These are some of the things we expect as fans, so it becomes natural to only cheer for the guys who wear your favorite uniform.

That being said, I really hope Joakim Noah stays a Bull forever, but either way I’ll always have a place in my heart for the player who’s always given all of his.

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