When Joakim Noah was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2007, not many draft experts were high on the pick.
However, Noah quickly became a fan favorite with the Bulls due to the passion he played with. Even though former MVP Derrick Rose was the best player on those Bulls teams coached by Tom Thibodeau from 2010 to 2015, Noah was the heart and soul of the franchise.
Despite Noah’s career ending on a downward spiral following his release from the LA Clippers and his agent telling Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that the big man is retiring, Noah was one of the most underrated players of his generation during his prime.
Joakim Noah was an All-Star and defensive monster on the Bulls
Noah’s offensive game never jumped off the page, but it was impossible to ignore his impact on the court.
Noah finished his Bulls career with averages of 9.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in 572 games. He made two All-Star teams, was the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in MVP voting during the 2013-14 season. That’s the campaign Noah racked up 47 double-doubles, four triple-doubles and led the Bulls to 48 wins.
On March 9, 2014, Noah had one of the best games of his career against his biggest rival, LeBron James. The Bulls were hosting James and the Miami Heat and Noah put on a spectacular show.
Noah finished with a stellar stat line of 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks to lead the Bulls to a 95-88 win. He put the Bulls on his shoulders during the 2013-14 season and proved to all of his critics that he was one of the most versatile players in the NBA.
Noah and LeBron had a lot of beef
During his career, Noah had no love for LeBron.
The beef between James and Noah started back in 2010 during LeBron’s first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While James was dancing on the free-throw line and mocking the Bulls, Noah started chirping at The King from the bench.
Once LeBron heard Noah barking at him, things got a little testy.
The basketball Gods blessed fans who were intrigued by the James-Noah beef in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. Not only did the Cavs and Bulls play each other, but Noah had a classic rant.
The Bulls fell to James and the Cavs in five games. However, that didn’t stop Noah from ripping James’ hometown.
Noah and James had their tense moments with each other from 2010 to 2014 when LeBron was on the Heat. The two All-Star’s biggest clash, though, came during the second round of the 2015 playoffs when LeBron was back on the Cavs.
In Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, James had a monster poster dunk on Noah. LeBron let Noah know about it and the two started jawing at each other, with Noah yelling a few expletives at James.
Joakim Noah’s career after his Bulls stint was unproductive
Noah’s tenure with the Bulls ended in 2016 when he signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the New York Knicks. The former Defensive Player of the Year signed a four-year, $72.6 million deal with the Knicks, who were hoping Noah could turn the franchise around with his defensive tenacity.
Noah’s stint with the Knicks, though, was a disaster from start to finish. He only appeared in 53 games with the franchise and was suspended 20 games in March of 2017 for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program.
During the 2017-18 season, Noah and head coach Jeff Hornacek butted heads, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. It was clear Noah’s run in the Big Apple was going to be short-lived.
In October of 2018, the Knicks waived Noah. After staying on the open market for a while, Noah finally reached a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
The former Florida Gator put up 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for Memphis in 42 games.
Before the 2019-20 season was suspended in March due to COVID-19, Noah agreed to a 10-day contract with the Clippers. In the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, Noah played in five seeding games. He averaged 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest. The former Bulls star appeared in two postseason games but played less than two total minutes.
The Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2020 playoffs, spoiling Noah’s hopes of getting to the Finals for the first time.
In 672 NBA games, Noah averaged 8.8 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 49.1% from the field.
He won’t make the Hall of Fame, but Joakim Noah was one of the most underrated players in the NBA during his healthy years on the Bulls.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference