During his NBA career, Joakim Noah had an intense rivalry with LeBron James. Whenever the Chicago Bulls faced the Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat, Noah and LeBron would jaw at each other and sometimes get into mini scuffles.
The beef between LeBron and Noah dates back to 2010 during the former’s first stint with the Cavaliers. In a game in Cleveland, Noah started barking at LeBron, who was at the free-throw line. When the King heard Sticks, all hell broke loose.
LeBron James and Joakim Noah argued from the free-throw line
The Cavaliers were blowing out the Bulls at home, and LeBron was thoroughly enjoying himself. The small forward was dancing, and Noah didn’t appreciate the antics.
LeBron heard Noah talk to him from the bench and said, “What happened? Doin’ what? Whatchu talkin’ about?” After he hit the first free-throw, the Akron native walked over to the Bulls bench to confront Noah. The refs called LeBron for a technical foul, while Noah kept telling the Cleveland star to stop dancing.
Noah wasn’t afraid of LeBron and had no problem challenging the Akron Emperor. While his courage and competitiveness were impressive, Noah could never beat LeBron when it mattered most.
LeBron James never lost a playoff series to Joakim Noah
LeBron and Noah faced off four times in the playoffs. The Chosen One never lost a postseason series to the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year.
The Cavaliers beat the Bulls in the first round of the 2010 playoffs and the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals. Meanwhile, when LeBron played for the Heat, he beat Chicago in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals.
During Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals, LeBron put Noah on a poster and talked trash to him. The four-time MVP was called for a technical foul, and Noah responded to LeBron by saying, “F*** you, you still a b***h though.”
While Noah respects LeBron as a player and person, he didn’t want to show that side of him on the basketball court since it was always a war.
Former Center speaks on the King: Competition is not pretty
During an interview with Zach Lowe of ESPN, Noah talked about his battles with LeBron and why he never established a post-playing relationship with the four-time champion.
“Competition is not pretty, and that’s why people like it,” Noah said. “There are beautiful moments and terrible moments. Competition has brought out the most beautiful sides of me, but also the most terrible sides. That’s the beauty of competition. It’s real. It’s emotions at their rawest. It’s some new-age gladiator s**t, and I played that way. There’s a lot of things I respect about LeBron, but between those lines, nah, f*** that.”
You can’t blame Noah for not having a relationship with LeBron. After all, the former Bulls star lost four playoff series to King James. For an intense competitor like Noah, losing to LeBron so many times must have killed him inside.
Noah finished his NBA career with averages of 8.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 672 games with the Bulls, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Los Angeles Clippers. He was named a “Bulls Ambassador” on Oct. 28 and will likely always be loved in Chicago.
As for LeBron, he’s still playing at a high level despite being 36. He’s averaging 26.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22.