Don’t Hate The Player…
An attempt to make sense of the ‘I hate Joakim Noah’ movement.
by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
Maybe I live inside a bubble.
And inside this bubble in which I reside is a bunch of Chicago Bulls fans like myself who think that Joakim Noah is the second best thing to ever happen to the franchise since Michael Jordan left (the first of course being Derrick Rose). So it comes as a complete shock to me when I hear people say that they actually don’t like the guy and I cram to understand why.
Is it the hair? Is it his mouth? Is it the primal scream after every rebound? Is it his god-awful shot? Is it the fact that people don’t think he’s a good basketball player offensively? Is it the roosters? Or, is it a combination of all the above? I don’t get it. But whatever it is, with as much hateful rhetoric as I’ve seen people spewing his way lately, you’d think the guy played his college ball at Duke or something.
Maybe people see something that I don’t.
When I watch Joakim Noah play, I see a dude that 29 other teams in the NBA would LOVE to have on their roster. I see a cat that for those who hate on him, would love to see in their favorite team’s uniform. The guy goes all out and he demonstrates that every night when he’s between those lines. His play is contagious. His teammates pick up his vibe and they go out and compete accordingly. He keeps everybody fired up and when he’s out there, he goes HAM (hard as a mother****er) every time. So what’s not to like?
He isn’t afraid to speak his mind as evidenced by the war of words between himself and LeBron James during a game in Cleveland earlier this season where he took exception to Bron’s dancing and Joakim let him know about it. His latest example of not being afraid to say what he feels came in his comments regarding Kevin Garnett’s elbow throwing incident against Quentin Richardson in Game 1 of the Celtics/Heat series in which KG was ejected.
“I’m going to say it. He’s a dirty player… He’s always swinging elbows, man. I’m hurting right now because of an elbow he threw… He knows what he’s doing. It’s messed up. It’s wrong. It’s not right.”
But what he said shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. I’m sure if you watch enough Celtic basketball games you’ll see evidence of Garnett’s dirtiness. But as a player, coming out against one of your peers and saying that he doesn’t play the game the right way has always been sort of taboo within the “Millionaire Boys Club.” But that’s why I like Joakim. He doesn’t care about that, and why should he?
Basketball may be a popularity contest amongst fans and the like, but between those who have to put that uniform on and lace up their sneakers, it’s war. You’re going out there and competing against the best in the world for two-and-half hours every night and you have to have that never back down mindset. I know the famous saying goes “all is fair in love and war” and for the most part it’s true. When KG throws his elbows out on the court and the ref’s don’t whistle him for it, yeah, that’s fair. It’s not cool, but it’s a part of the game that’s understood and accepted by those who go out there every night and have to play and compete against him.
But just because you accept the fact that it’s coming, doesn’t mean you have to like it and it’s certainly within reason to take exception to it and say something about it, especially when asked which is what Joakim Noah did. Sure, it wasn’t his business and in facing the Cavaliers, he has much more to worry about. But he didn’t just volunteer that information either, let’s not forget that. Besides, he’s said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t like the Celtics anyway, so what did you expect him to say? That Kevin Garnett is one of the squeaky clean guys in the League who would never intentionally throw an elbow at someone? Yeah, right.
If you believe that one then I’ve got this bridge in Brooklyn I’m trying to get rid of for cheap. All you have to do is charge a toll and you can make your money back in a week. So get at me.
Joakim Noah is entitled to his opinion and I think people should really give him a break. And I’m not just saying that because he plays for my team either. He’s probably one of the hardest working guys in the NBA and he has to be because he isn’t as talented as a majority of the people he plays against every night. But what he lacks in talent and ability, he more than makes up for in heart and hustle. That’s how he made it to the NBA, and that’s how he’s proved that he belongs. Love him or hate him, you have to honor and respect that, especially when there are so many players out there who don’t work hard and take being in this League for granted.
Also, one of the biggest knocks on guys these days is that they’re all friends and they don’t compete as hard against one another as they should. But Joakim is a throwback to the 80′s era where the only people you cared about were your teammates and when you faced off against other teams, you tried to kill each other. You need guys like that in the trenches with you. If I were in a foxhole, I’d want Joakim Noah in there with me. And if you’re one of those haters, secretly, you probably do too.
Now as for what he said about Cleveland , well, I’m not going to even try and defend him on that one. He was pretty much dead on.