Joakim Noah’s season to remember now has some hardware to make it belong to the ages.
This afternoon, the Chicago Bulls’ man in the middle picked up the NBA’s first postseason award, Defensive Player of the Year, making him only the second Bull to ever win the award. The first was this dude named Michael Jordan, who won it after the 1987-88 season.
Jordan won his DPOY through a dazzling array of athletic maneuvering, leading to his league-leading steals total, which still ranks as the seventh-best season of steals in league history.
Noah, honestly, doesn’t have such an eye-popping stat to state his case, but he does have a healthy portfolio in general, including league-leading marks in metric stats such as overall defensive rating (95.8) and defensive win shares (6.6), the latter meaning that Noah’s defensive play alone led to that number of Bulls wins this season. Six-plus wins, by the way, made the difference between the Bulls being the Eastern Conference’s fourth-seed and it being its seventh-seed. How would y’all have loved playing Miami this round? Especially given the disappointing Game 1 outing on Sunday?
The timing of this award is kind of bittersweet, given Noah’s sub-par play in the first game against the Wizards and his still-established period of mourning over basketball mentor Tyrone Green, but he still looked radiant while receiving the award Monday. That’s one of the most appealing things about Noah — whatever he’s feeling, you can feel it with him, be it victory, disappointment, sadness, elation and all-out effort.
Noah’s effort could be felt every time he went down the court and occupied the heart of a Tom Thibodeau defensive set, shadowing the paint or venturing with no fear to the outer-reaches of the 3-point arc to stick a much quicker player off the dribble.
Noah showcased himself in a couple dozen nationally-televised games, including ones with his just-as-charismatic father, a star from another era, giving memorable voice to all the emotions Bulls fans had as they watched him on their screens.
Big Jo doesn’t strive for perfection, he just strives and dives and ambles wherever he is needed on the court. No player in the NBA personifies the meaning of what it takes to defend a basketball as much as he. This is a well deserved honor, a centerpiece of one of the most unlikely star careers in NBA history and it will always be a point of pride for Bulls Nation.
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