Did Joakim Noah Just Make the NBA Playoffs Fun Again?
I have nothing against the good people of Cleveland, Ohio. Nothing at all. In fact, Cleveland seems like the perfect kind of place to grow up and get the full American experience. New York City and Los Angeles and Atlanta and Miami and my hometown of Trenton, NJ are all great—but they don’t always exactly scream, THIS IS AMERICA!, like Cleveland and the hard-working citizens of the city do.
I’m saying all of this, of course, to make up for the fact that I absolutely loved what Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah did the other night when someone asked him about playing on the road against Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. “Cleveland sucks, you know?” he said before Game 1 of the series. After Game 2, when pressed for further comment, he asked another group of reporters: “Do you like it? Do you think it’s cool at all? I’ve never heard anyone say, I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.” Hahaha and…HA!
First, Joakim Noah’s comments aren’t just good or great. They’re awesome. Right up there with Allen Iverson’s “We talkin’ ’bout practice?!” and Rasheed Wallace’s “Both teams played hard!” press conferences. Seriously, the cojones it took for Noah to call out an entire city is admirable, if not completely ridiculous and somewhat stupid. He didn’t stop there, either. Sandwiched in between the two comments, he also called Kevin Garnett (a player that has absolutely nothing to do with the series he’s playing in) a “dirty player” after KG was ejected from a contest last weekend for throwing an elbow, and later suspended for one game. It’s been one hell of a week for the former University of Florida standout—and it’s only Wednesday.
Full disclosure: I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. So of course I loved Noah’s outbursts. But more than that, I love them because they’re bringing something to the NBA Playoffs that’s been missing for the last couple years: Fun. Sure, I enjoyed the Tim Duncan/San Antonio Spurs era as much as the next guy (sarcasm?) and watching Kobe catch a ring without Shaq was kinda cool (more sarcasm?) but all of the politically-correct press conferences and cliché post-game interviews have really put a damper on the league’s fun factor.
The NBA needs more of this. Did you see the look in Noah’s eyes when he talked about Cleveland? He really hates that place! And if other guys hate it, they should say so. If they hate the way LeBron James dances on the court, they should do it (Noah did that earlier this year, too, when he yelled at LBJ during a game for breaking out his dance moves on the sideline). If they hate Brandon Jennings’s haircut or Chris “Birdman” Anderson’s tattoos or J.R. Smith’s three-point celebrations or Mark Cuban’s belly-aching, they should come out and say it. Not only does it make for interesting storylines during these NBA Playoffs, it also sets up rivalry matchups for the future, something the NBA is desperately missing right now.
Listen, I’m not naive. There’s a good chance the Bulls won’t beat the Cavaliers in the playoffs this season. Hell, I’d be happy with them winning a single game in the series. And I realize that Noah’s comments will ultimately get spun to make him look like a damn fool if the Bulls do happen to get swept. But I think he set a pretty good precedent earlier this week when he told the world what he really feels about Cleveland. In the process, he made himself a household name and gave the Bulls a swagger they’ll be able to carry into next season. I hope someone else out there on the Dallas Mavericks or the Atlanta Hawks or Denver Nuggets or Orlando Magic realizes this and someone else yells out, “Cleveland sucks!,” too.
Again, it’s not that I have anything against Cleveland. It’s just that this is what the NBA Playoffs are all about. It’s a soap opera, a story with twists and turns and good and bad guys that go to battle every night on the hardwood. It’s exciting and unpredictable. It’s an opportunity for guys like Joakim Noah to make a name for themselves. And now that he’s spoken his mind, I can’t wait to see who steps up next.
Photo: Courtesy of Not Qualified to Comment