Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah Shares His Passion For The Game With Pinoy Kids

The Chicago Bulls legend was in town recently and spent some time with a lucky group of Filipino kids.

During his 14-year NBA playing career, Joakim Noah gained a reputation as a passionate, energetic player who would do anything for the betterment of his team.

And even though he never won an NBA championship, Noah will go down as one of the most beloved stars of the Chicago Bulls franchise.

The two-time All-Star was in Manila recently for a series of events, capped by a visit to a Jr. NBA Clinic on Sunday where he interacted with and coached 50 young kids in the fundamentals of basketball.

He also made sure to instill in the young hoopers the lessons he learned as a third-generation athlete growing up in New York and Paris and later on as a back-to-back NCAA champion with the Florida Gators and as a core member of the late 2000s Chicago Bulls that made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011.

“What I was doing before school, is I was going for shots every day before school because I knew that nobody else was doing it,” he told the youngsters. “And people were like, ‘Oh, he’s like kind of lonely, he only wants to stay to himself.’ No, no, because I was focused and I had a dream. My dream was I wanted to play in the NBA.”

Joakim described his years with the Bulls as “some of the best times of my life,” and even though they fell short of their goal of winning it all, he gained friendships to last a lifetime.

“We had a real great team. Unfortunately the injuries kind of didn’t allow us to reach our full potential and win a championship. But to this day, and what I’m trying to say something that’s very important right now, even though we didn’t win a championship, those teammates that I had with the Chicago Bulls are still my best friends today. So it’s not just winning and losing. These people that you meet when you play could be your best friends for your life.

“These clinics, these things that you guys are doing right now together, you guys could be friends for life. When your teammate is down, he falls, he’s sad, you pick him up. I got your back.

“They gotta know, ‘I got your back.’ This is important and these are the values whether you play basketball or you get another job in life. These are lessons and values that you’re going to keep with you for the rest of your life, and I think that that’s something that’s very important because not everybody here is going to be in the NBA. But what the reality is, basketball is going to teach you values. Values that you can use throughout your life.”

“And that’s more important than winning and losing a basketball game…I’m very passionate because I care, I care about kids all around the world because I see how much you guys want it and it starts with your routine at home. Are you doing your push-ups every night? Are you doing your squats every night? Are you doing the extra running or are you only doing it when the coach says? When the coach is not there, you still have to work.”

Joakim Noah brings it in with participants at a Jr. NBA Clinic. (NBA Philippines)
New York, Manila, Paris

Joakim Noah is truly a global ambassador of the game, having been born and raised in the basketball hotbed of New York City while also spending part of his formative years in his father’s home country of France, which is a rising power in international basketball.

Yet, in his first visit to the Philippines, he was blown away by the basketball culture in Manila.

“I grew up in New York City,” he said. “New York City basketball is, you know, very similar to Manila actually. There’s playgrounds, basketball playgrounds everywhere. Basketball, there’s a huge basketball culture in New York City. So my inspiration was just waking up in the morning, I was excited to go play ball.”

Noah said he was stunned that fans knew who he was and what tam he played for when he arrived in Manila.

“I think it’s beautiful. Right when I got off the plane, I couldn’t believe how many people knew that I haven’t played in a basketball game in such a long time and people were like all Chicago Bulls. I had heard that it was a basketball culture. I didn’t know to what extent. It’s beautiful to see a culture that really loves basketball.”

Noah represented France at the international level, and he said the country’s club system is a big reason for its recent success in FIBA tournaments and for the fact that the top two picks in last week’s NBA Draft are both Frenchmen.

“I think it’s interesting,” he said. “Being able to travel the world now as an ambassador of the game, I’m going to all these different places around the world and I lived in France for a while. So I understand kind of the grassroots system, and it’s very unique in the sense that the professional teams have youth teams as well, so I think that that’s one of the reasons the kids are able to see the older generations every step of the way. And that’s why I think France is having all this success in all the youth coming into the NBA.”

As hosts of the Olympics later this month, Noah has high hopes for Les Bleus.

“Well, we’re hoping for the best,” he said. “There’s gonna be a lot of talent playing. I’m excited for France.”

Noah revealed that he is also rooting for South Sudan to make some noise in Paris. The country claimed an Olympic slot by being the highest-placed African country in last year’s FIBA World Cup, despite the fact that the country was only founded in 2012 and its basketball program, which Deng heads, only started a few years ago.

“I’m excited for my brother Luol Deng as well who I played with who’s representing the youngest country in the world, South Sudan. He was building the first basketball courts in the country and now they get to represent South Sudan in the Olympics. It’s a very beautiful story.”

Banner Image from NBA Philippines.

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