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Joakim Noah on Boys, Boredom and Griminess

By Nick Wass - AP

There's been a lot of talk this week among a certain segment of our readers on whether it's acceptable for a sportswriter to hate sports. Hyperbole aside, I'd say most of us have those moments of "Wow, I thought I was going to change the world and instead I'm watching a 16-55 NBA team descend to 16-56 while little kids dance to 'Mony Mony' on the big screen and grown men fight for freebie t-shirts fired by a dude in a full-body blue Spandex suit."

It's not interesting to hear me say that. But it might be interesting to hear athletes say that, which is why I'm always asking pro athletes if they've ever had metaphysical doubts about their career choices. Joakim Noah seemed like a prime candidate for this line of questioning.

Before I could get there, though, there was a brief locker room debate. Noah, pre-shower, was sitting on Brad Miller's chair. Miller did not approve. So Noah switched out the "grimy" chair with John Salmons's, sat back down in front of Salmons's locker and continued to talk on a cell phone. Miller promptly told Salmons what happened. The dialog was both amusing and not fit for print. The word "grimy" made frequent appearances. One was reminded of middle school gym class.

Ah, well. On with the philosophy.

What's the most interesting thing you've seen in the NBA?

Most interesting? Well, I feel like my first year was pretty interesting. At the beginning I wasn't playing at all, so I experienced how hard it is to be in that situation, have your own money, make your own decisions and you're in a situation where you're not playing a lot of minutes. It's easier for someone when he knows, 'Ok, I'm playing 35 minutes, I've got to get my rest,' you know what I'm saying? Compared to the guy who's at the end of the bench who's not playing. That's the guy it's the toughest on, I think, in the NBA. Because you want to do the right thing, even though you're not really getting thrown a bone or anything.

I've asked this to some different guys in different sports, but I'm curious what you'd have to say, because you're a guy that's got a lot of interests. Do you ever sort of get bored, I guess, with basketball, bored with being a professional athlete? Because it's kind of the same thing over and over.

It is. It is. And sometimes it's hard, like when you're in Utah and you get in at like 2 o'clock in the morning, and you're far from your friends and everybody that you know. You've just got to realize that you're lucky. You're lucky. You're fortunate to be doing what you love to do. Not a lot of people can say that. There's times where your body's tired, your body's achy, your ankle hurts, and you just don't want to.

But I used to talk about that with my pops a little, because my pops went through the same thing, and he always said would you trade it for anything else? And there's no way. There's no way. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I mean, even though sometimes it's hard--you're leaving home, you're leaving your boys at home, they get to drive your car or have the house to yourselves. You know? They're doing big things, having fun. I mean, it's the life we chose, and I wouldn't have it any other way, even though sometimes it's hard.

Do you ever think it's silly at all, that what you do for a living is try to put a ball in a basket?

Do I think it's silly? Yeah, I think it's overrated, because people make a big deal out of it. But I mean, at the same time, it's such a big part of the culture. You know? Such a big part of the culture. It's so funny to me, I remember when I was a kid how much I admired basketball players. I think that it's important to have good things to say to the kids, and just help them understand what it took to get here, because nobody had it easy.

Even though you might be tall or whatever, everybody had to sacrifice in order to get to this level. Nobody had it easy. And sometimes it's like, "Oh, he's just a spoiled athlete," but nobody really understands that it took a lot of work. You had to stay away from a lot of things, you had to sacrifice a lot to get where we are.

So you never have metaphysical doubts on the court?

No. I love the game too much. Not during the game. There were times when it's been harder than other times, especially during losing streaks and stuff like that. But winning is the best feeling in the world.

So what do your boys do with your house when you're gone?

Live large. I don't know half of it. I don't even want to know. But I let them enjoy it.

You just let them go to your house and do what they do?

Well, a couple of my boys live with me. A lot of NBA players, especially in their younger years, have some of their boys live with them, do some of the house chores, pay some of the bills.

Does it get grimy?

In the house? Nah, thank God I've got a cleaning lady, so it doesn't get too grimy. There's definitely some grimy stories. There's definitely some griminess. But I'm not going to tell you. That'd be like snitching on myself. Why would I do that?

Because I'm looking for something interesting.

I understand that.

So when you get back, the house looks the same as when you left it?

Oh, they've got to do that. I think if it really came down to it, I think NBA players, there's a lot of players who could pull a better version of, like, an "Entourage." A lot of players.

And you're one of them?

Um, remember, I'm not snitching on myself. I'm not gonna snitch on myself. But I'm telling you man, if there were NBA players who filmed it, a lottttt of people would watch. A lot of people.

So how many guys stay with you?

Two. But I always have a lot of boys from New York just visiting, a lot of people hanging out. You know, it's a crazy life. But it's good, because there's so much to it. You know what I mean? A lot of people don't understand how fast a first deal goes. Your first check, how fast it goes, when you have people asking you for money all the time. And I come from a situation where my father was a tennis player, and I used to have a lot of friends, and a lot of people hit you [up] all the time. It's different.

People say, "How come NBA players lose all their money?" It's because we're making money like a 40-year old businessman would make. If a 40-year old businessman made money like us, he's very successful. Right? But at 40 years old, you're established, you have a family, you don't have people pressing you for money, you know what I'm saying? We're 23. Single. A lot of people are single. A lot of people come from areas where they don't have the means, and don't understand the whole money situation. They don't understand that when it says $1.5 million, half of that goes to taxes, and the house, and the agent. I mean, it goes.

So your friends will actually just come up to you and ask you for money?

Oh, all the time. All the time.

And you give it to them?

I mean, it's hard to say no to somebody that you grew up with your whole life and you know they're in a situation. That would be a good story to ask players.

Do you remember your first check?

I remember it was negative. I remember it was negative. I had some fines. I had a lot of fines. I didn't see a lot of it.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 24, 2009; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  NBA  
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Next: G Man Kisses the Rim, Betts Declines on Cutler


Can we trade for him?

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 24, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Season six of "Entourage" has Eric meet Joakim Noah before a Lakers game while he is arguing with his manager over the latest Scorsese film. Meanwhile, Vince is having money problems and Drama may be kicked off his show. Turtle gets dumped by Jamie-Lynn Sigler after she won't kiss him when the kiss-cam shows them sitting together at the Lakers game.

Posted by: sitruc | March 24, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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