Why Do I Like Joakim Noah?

I’ve never met anyone else who likes Joakim Noah.

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Some people just can’t get past the hair. Others hate the way he evilly sneers as he runs up and down the floor. Basketball purists complain about his awkward, side-spinning shot that should never result in a made field-goal. Seemingly, he just annoys everyone I’ve ever met that has watched him play.

Explaining why I like him is difficult. It doesn’t really make sense why I would. He was responsible for beating the best Ohio State (my alma mater) basketball team of my lifetime. He spoke at length about how much he dislikes Cleveland (my favorite team). One would think that these would be very fair reasons why to hate someone. But I can’t do it.

He is a walking contradiction. His hair projects a free-spirited personality, but his on-court intensity gives the impression of anything but. Never expressionless, he plays with a ferocious passion that is only matched by that of his coach, Tom Thibodeau. At least once a game, Noah will let out a primal scream that awakens everyone in the arena from the slumber that normally accompanies watching the Bulls play without Derrick Rose.

Noah certainly doesn’t play a pretty brand of basketball, but his results are undeniable within Thibodeau’s system. Chicago’s defense ranks third in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and it is Noah who is the lynchpin. His boundless energy is evident within every defensive possession. He recklessly dives all over the floor for loose balls. The vigor with which he is able to block shots with force yet gracefulness in order to keep the ball in-bounds is remarkable for a man of his size. Few players in the NBA create more extra possessions for their team than Noah does. He is one of three players in the NBA to average at least two blocks and one steal, to go along with averaging 3.8 offensive rebounds per game.

I was trying to think of a player to compare Noah to, but I couldn’t think of anyone. He’s completely unique there because of his personality and talent. In order to find a comparison, one must leave the world of the NBA.

The only applicable comparison I can find is to the rapper 2 Chainz. Just like Noah, 2 Chainz is disliked by many. Some complain about the utter absurdity of his lyrics, or more generally his inability to rap about anything substantive at all. His appearance is patently ridiculous; with long hair halfway down his back and sunglasses that he wears so often that they are seemingly glued to his face.

2 Chainz was even something of a late bloomer like Noah, who was the beneficiary of late growth spurts that pushed him to his present height of 7’0.” Normally rappers are discovered in their early 20s and, with some luck, produce their best music in their late 20s to early 30s. Tauheed Epps (2 Chainz birth name) wasn’t really discovered until he was 30, at which point he was still going by the name of Tity Boi. In Epps case, a simple re-branding was all it took for his career to take off.

2 Chainz took off near the middle of last year. Just like Noah plays, he raps with an inexhaustible energy that is infectious upon listening. It may not be the best method of rap, but it’s fun. Just as no one will ever confuse Noah for Dwight Howard, no one will ever mistake 2 Chainz for Jay-Z. My assumption is that if you don’t like 2 Chainz, you probably don’t like Joakim Noah either because of a lot of their inherent “flaws.”

I don’t see these quirks as flaws. I enjoy watching Noah’s extreme exuberance on the court while playing the Heat just as I enjoy listening to 2 Chainz’ ridiculous enthusiasm while rapping hilariously misogynistic lyrics over “Birthday Song.” I enjoy how Noah embraces his appearance by wearing comical outfits (his draft day outfit) just as I enjoy 2 Chainz’ absurd insistence to wear sunglasses even when he’s indoors. I think I like the fact that someone can have these quirks and still be an star basketball player. Not everyone needs to be a carbon copy of each other to be successful. I hope that Noah never shaves that hair and never gets that front-tooth gap fixed. I hope he continues to annoy everyone else by wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He wears his individuality as a badge of honor, and that’s something that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Even though I have a million reasons to dislike Joakim Noah, I just can’t help but enjoy his existence.

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