In the summer of 2010, LeBron James was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The small forward met with the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, and Cleveland Cavaliers and had NBA fans on pins and needles waiting to hear where he would play in 2010-11.
On July 8, 2010, LeBron made his “decision” and took his talents to South Beach to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat. Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Clippers, and Cavs fans were devastated when the King told Jim Gray he would sign with Miami on live television.
The Bulls were believed to be the favorites to sign LeBron since they had a young Derrick Rose and LBJ idolized Michael Jordan. However, it turns out Joakim Noah‘s presence may have hurt Chicago’s chances.
LeBron James ignored Joakim Noah’s phone call
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Noah called LeBron and tried to recruit him to the Bulls. However, the Akron Hammer missed the call and never called the Florida product back.
“Another of their young players, Joakim Noah, ended up as the primary player voice,” Windhorst wrote in 2020. “Although Noah has a magnetic personality and developed into a star recruiter in his days at the University of Florida, he was not the franchise player. He also had an acrimonious relationship with James. Underscoring that, Noah called James that week, and James never called him back.”
Noah and LeBron got into an argument in 2010 when the former yelled at the latter to stop dancing during a Bulls-Cavs game. Noah also blasted the city of Cleveland during the 2010 playoffs when the Cavs beat the Bulls in the first round in five games.
“You think Cleveland’s cool?” Noah said to reporters during a press conference. “I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about Cleveland?”
LeBron played four seasons with the Heat and had several battles with Noah and the Bulls. Although Rose won the 2010-11 MVP over Dwight Howard and LeBron, the Chosen One got the last laugh over Chicago.
LeBron James and Heat beat Bulls in 2011 conference finals and 2013 semifinals
The Heat defeated the Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals in five games. LeBron averaged 25.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists and played stellar defense on Rose, who shot only 35.0% from the field.
Miami and Chicago met again in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals. LeBron and Co. won the series in five games, and the 2003 No. 1 overall draft pick won his second championship and second Finals MVP after leading the Heat past the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 Finals.
After four years with the Heat, LeBron returned to the Cavs in 2014. Noah recruited Carmelo Anthony to the Bulls and had some terrific conversations with him. However, Anthony wound up re-signing with the Knicks.
LeBron’s Cavs and Noah’s Bulls squared off in the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals. Rose hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 3 to give Chicago a 2-1 series lead. It appeared the Bulls would finally beat LeBron in the playoffs. However, the All-Star swingman said not so fast.
Cavs won three straight after losing Game 3
The Bulls had momentum going into Game 4 following Rose’s game-winner in Game 3. However, LeBron single-handedly got the series back in Cleveland’s favor in Game 4.
Despite Jimmy Butler guarding him, LeBron hit a contested jumper right in front of the Bulls’ bench at the buzzer in Game 4. The Cavs used that spectacular shot by the All-NBA forward to get back in the series and take control. They won Games 5 and 6 to finish off the Bulls, who fired Tom Thibodeau following the end of their season.
The Bulls have never defeated LeBron in the playoffs. The future Hall of Famer may have been interested in signing with Chicago in 2010, but he’s probably had more fun beating Rose and Noah.