When Joakim Noah speaks, you know we have to listen.
The Chicago Bulls legend sat down with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter on the latest episode of the Old Man & The Three Podcast for a wide-ranging interview. To no surprise, Noah provided the perfect blend of hilarious storytelling and thought-provoking responses.
The conversation starts with Noah describing the context around his hard-nosed style of play. Spending his formative years in New York City and destined to pave his own path in the shadow of his father (a professional tennis player), Noah reflects on his many years of basketball camps and streetball tournaments.
Fast forward to his first season in Chicago, and Noah recounts how that tough persona immediately stirred up some trouble. He talked about his screaming match with assistant coach Ron Adams and it led to a suspension – one that his teammates didn’t believe was long enough.
“I get suspended. The next game we had practice, I had a good practice, we’re getting ready. Ben Wallace in the huddle goes, ‘us players, we feel like one game wasn’t enough, so you’re not playing tonight again.’ I’m looking at my teammates. I could tell some of these guys didn’t even know.
I’m like ‘what?’ And I remember Joe Smith going, ‘did he stutter?’ I’m like, holy shit, mind you Ben Wallace is our captain, he had two headbands on his arm. I’m 220lbs, I’m tiny.”
The Bulls went on to lose that game and Noah let an all-too-cheerful locker room hear it from him after the game, which is when he believed a new level of respect was gained between him and his teammates.
Noah then goes on to talk briefly about his well-documented heydays alongside Derrick Rose, but the direction things went afterward proved far more interesting. We all know Noah’s time in Chicago faced a rather bitter end, and things didn’t get any better once he was traded to the New York Knicks. The big man talks honestly about some dark days as a member of that franchise and how his dismissal from the team ultimately led to him appreciating the game even more.
Indeed, Noah claimed that one of his career highlights was getting the call to suit up for the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018-19 season. With several surgeries under his belt, it was here that he felt like he might have a chance to carve out a new role in the NBA as a sparkplug member of the second unit.
“It was one of the best moments of my career, being able to come back from all that and having a 4/4 night. Just appreciating, really appreciating, being on the floor. That’s the thing. For all the guys out there who lose the love of the game, until it’s taken from you, you can not take none of this sh*t for granted.”
Unfortunately, we all know what happened next, and Noah didn’t beat around the bush. As he looked to join a championship contender, the Los Angeles Clippers eventually called his name. The day before the start of training camp, however, he ended up “slicing” his Achilles on a stainless steel tub.
“It was over after that,” Noah said. “I mean, I came back. The Clippers were nice enough to bring me in, I fought my ass off to try to make it … I couldn’t move. I could barely dunk. These guys are good. It was a tough way to go out.”
While Noah’s end to his NBA career may not have come in the way he wanted, I think it’s safe to say he’s in a very good place. Not only did he recently get married to many of his former teammates in attendance, but he’s currently doing amazing work with the NBA Africa initiative (which they also touch on at the end of the episode).
Anyway, for all of us Bulls fans who have a soft spot in our hearts for Noah, the full interview is a must-listen. You can find the episode below, but it also should be available anywhere you get your podcasts.