NBA Playoffs 2011: Joakim Noah's Passion Will Lead Bulls Past Hawks and Beyond

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Joakim Noah's Passion Will Lead Bulls Past Hawks and Beyond
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Joakim Noah's energy, passion, and leadership lead his Chicago Bulls throught he NBA Playoffs.

I will always remember a certain day in Chicago Bulls history, and it is remembered for pure ignorance shown by myself, along with Chicago Bulls fans across the nation.

On June 28, 2007, the Chicago Bulls selected Joakim Noah out of Florida with the ninth overall selection.

The Chicago Bulls finished the 2006-2007 season with huge optimism as the swept the Miami Heat in the first round, and showed potential in a 4-2 series loss at the hands of the Detroit Pistons in Round 2.

So as the draft neared, and the Bulls possessed the New York Knicks' ninth overall selection in the steal that was the infamous "Eddy Curry Trade," Chicago was hoping to make a move that would quickly be able to boost them into the upper echelon of NBA teams.

So as their selection rolled around and the highest scoring post player on Chicago's roster being Ben Wallace, a legitimate scoring threat would be obviously beneficial to the franchise, both in the short and long term.

But, the then-GM, John Paxson, and former Head Coach, Scott Skiles, decided to head in a different direction.

They selected a post player, one that would help to energize the quickly aging Wallace and P.J. Brown, but he wasn't exactly a scorer, in the loosest sense of the word.

I remembered booing and raging at the television during David Stern's mundane announcement. Noah was a project. There was no doubting his potential, but in an NBA where opportunities to win are so high in demand, and low in supply, potential just wasn't going to cut it.

Noah's perceived immaturity was a concern heading into the NBA.

In Noah, Chicagoans saw a player who seemed to waste his ability. He appeared wild and carefree.

To Chicago sports fans, the most beloved players are the Brian Urlachers and Michael Jordans of the world; the ones who have immense talent, but harness and mold it into greatness through dedication and hard work.

That blue collar work ethic that is instilled in Chicagoans did not seem to fit with Noah personality.

So, as October rolled around the Bulls were set to embark on yet another season where their record was hovering around .500 expectations, but especially patience was going to be short with the rookie.

And to the fans' narcissistic delight, Noah struggled tremendously. With just over six points and five rebounds per game, and the Bulls struggling to a 33-49 record, the 22-year-old rookie was an easy target for disheartened Bulls fans.

But something clicked for Noah that off-season, but it most definitely was not his seat-belt.

Noah was cited for having an open container of alcohol in his car, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, and not wearing a seat-belt in late May of 2008.

But opposite from his personal experiences, Noah matured on the court into a passionate, hungry, energetic, rebounding monster that everyone loved to hate. That "me against the world" attitude became embraced by Chicago fans.

Noah's steal and dunk on Paul Pierce has propelled the admiration that Chicago Bulls fans have for him and his style of play.

And that moment, when he was, for the first time, truly accepted by Chicagoans was in Game Six of the Chicago Bulls epic and legendary series against the Boston Celtics.

With just under 40 seconds remaining and the score tied at 123 in the third overtime of the game and Noah's Bulls down 3-2 in the series, Joakim Noah made the greatest play of his professional career.

As Boston Forward Paul Pierce came across the line, Joakim Noah helped off his man, Brian Scalabrine, to help on Pierce.

As Pierce saw the 6'11'' Noah lumbering towards him, he picked up his dribble in an effort to kick the ball out to Scalabrine, a solid three-point shooter. But, Noah's quick reflexes and supreme athletic ability enabled him to snatch the ball out of the air.

As Noah clumsily began to dribble and sprint up the court,  the whole crowd at the United Center, and fans watching on TV let out a collective "PASS IT!"

But, Noah didn't hear our cries.

With Paul Pierce on his hip, Noah proceeds to pound the ball up the court at a dead sprint, as he reaches the the lane on the opposite side of the court, Noah began to gather himself in an attempt to flush it down on Pierce.

So, as Noah rose up, ball in his outstretched right arm, Pierce in a final attempt to disrupt the Joakim Noah's new poster, fouls him. But, it was too late. Noah had already jammed the ball home, and Pierce committed his six foul and was forced to leave the game.

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It is this kind of hustle, this kind of attitude that Chicagoans have learned to embrace.

When the Bulls are struggling to play with any kind of passion, it is Noah who consistently pumps his fists and motions to the crowd at what seem like the most minuscule  first quarter fouls and rebounds. He fires up the crowd, igniting their cheers.

But, not only is he enthusiastic on the court, he is the backbone and heart of this young, exciting Bulls team.

After Game Two of the Bulls' Eastern Conference Semifinal Series with Atlanta, Bulls fans were booing forward Carlos Boozer after he struggled to score eight points in the Bulls Game 2 victory.

Noah stood up for his teammate, although it was painfully obvious that Noah does at times get frustrated with Boozer's defense (or lack thereof). But he still supports Boozer, telling fans to lay-off the forward due to his playing through a turf-toe injury.

It is that kind of effort and leadership that Chicago has come to love and admire about Joakim Noah. And now, Noah knows that he not only has a team riding on his back, but a city.

And he'll be fist pumping and pounding his chest all the way until the Chicago is satisfied. And they will be, with an NBA Championship.

Josh Rosenblat is a high school student from Chicago looking to find a way to break into sports journalism. He often writes about the NBA (primarily the Chicago Bulls), as well as the MLB, College Basketball, and the NFL. You can email him at joshua.m.rosenblat@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @JMRosenblat. Feel free to send him comments.

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