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As sports fans, we can tend to take things a bit too seriously. While there’s nothing wrong with being invested in your favorite team, the competition can sometimes go too far. NBA players can experience a similar situation, albeit from their own perspective. Take Joakim Noah as an example of that.

During an appearance on JJ Redick’s The Old Man and The Three podcast, the big man explained how he came to realize that you can’t be 1000% competitive all of the time. That wasn’t a solo journey, though. At one point, Noah received an invaluable piece from a former rival: Dwyane Wade.

Let’s hop in the time machine and check it out.

Joakim Noah never forgot a few simple words from Dwyane Wade

In the world of sports, fearless competitors like Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett tend to receive plenty of praise. Joakim Noah was one of those guys, he but wasn’t completely thrilled with that reality.

“I think that as I got older, I realized that’s not a good way to be,” the former Florida Gator explained to JJ Redick. “I think you need to be [as] competitive as you can between the lines, and then once that’s over, you gotta let it go. Because, otherwise, you’re just gonna carry way too much. That’s unnecessary baggage. Like, I’m done playing. It’s not cool to be competitive off the court. It’s not a good energy to have. … You don’t want to be competitive at home. You can’t be, like, competitive; you don’t want to be competitive with your brothers, your kids. Like, it’s not, it’s not, your wife. So, for me personally, I know that’s something that I deal with because the competition s***, is how I was raised. It’s in my DNA.”

Beyond the maturing process, though, Noah also got an assist from an unlikely source. At one of the lowest points in his career, another NBA player — someone who the big man would view as competition rather than a friend — managed to break through.

“When all the s*** happened with the Knicks and my first year, I had a knee injury, I had a shoulder injury, two surgeries. I had a drug suspension. You know, I didn’t want to play basketball,” Noah recalled. “I get past all that, and I’m back in the gym. And I’m like a shell of myself. Like it’s probably my second or third time after those two surgeries back in the gym. And I’m at Pepperdine in Malibu. D-Wade has his coach on the other side of the court, and I’m on the other side of the court. And I’m legit, I’m embarrassed. I’m like, ‘Yo, I can barely move.'”

Joakim Noah (L) and Dwyane Wade (R) battle for a loose ball.
Joakim Noah and Dwyane Wade had their battles on the court but ultimately shared some important words. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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While based on that reality and the pair’s bad blood, it would have been easy for both men to keep their respective heads down and go about their business. Wade, however, extended a small but meaningful olive branch.

Like, I didn’t even know where to put myself. And I remember him on the sideline being like, “Yo, good luck. Keep it up.” And I don’t even know if he knows this, but it just like meant a lot to me, and it said a lot. It was like, “Yo, there are things that are just, like, bigger than this.” You know? I don’t know, it was deep. And it just, like, made me really rethink my whole, my whole thing. Because I was like turning into a persona that wasn’t, like, really who I was, you know?

Joakim Noah

And while Wade dished out plenty of assists on the court, this one was arguably his most impressive. It’s probably a lesson we can all stand to learn.

As I said off the jump, it’s easy to take sports a bit too seriously. Who among us hasn’t seen things cross the line from friendly ribbing to an in-stadium brawl (or at least witnessed security rushing to a nearby section)? Pro sports maybe be a part of our collective lives, but at the end of the day, they’re an entertainment product, not a blood feud.

If pros like Joakim Noah and Dwyane Wade can come to understand that reality, so can we.

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