Born in New York and raised in France and Hell’s Kitchen, Joakim Noah is used to the public eye. His dad is French Open champion Yannick Noah, now a pop star/political activist in France, and his mom, the former Miss Sweden, is a sculptor based in New York. And his accomplishments? Young Jo and his University of Florida teammates earned the NCAA championship title two years in a row, in 2006 and ’07.
What’s been the favorite moment of your career so far? Definitely coming back to school after winning a national championship. You’re on that plane and it’s just you and your teammates and it finally kicks in that you’ve won that championship. You’re with the people you went to battle with every day for the past year to accomplish that goal.
What’s been the toughest moment of your career? Losing. I couldn’t give you one specific game. Just losing in general is the toughest thing in basketball. I hate to lose — even though we won two national championships, sometimes I look back and say, I wish we won this game or that game. I guess that’s kind of greedy. Just losing in general, that’s the hardest thing for me.
If you weren’t playing basketball, what would you be doing instead? I think I’d be a fruit vendor on the beach or something. Somewhere warm.
Who’s an athlete in another sport you admire? My favorite athlete has to be Muhammad Ali, of course. I think he’s an inspiration. Currently, there’s a soccer player for Chelsea, Didier Drogba, from the Ivory Coast. Both of those guys are great athletes and at the top of their sports, but what they did away from the field or ring was the most interesting or inspiring to me. They are people whose messages will never be forgotten even when they leave us.
With Drogba, there was a big civil war in the Ivory Coast, and the national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history, in the last World Cup. They competed and when Drogba won the MVP award, he brought it home to a region of the country that was at war with his region of the country. And that’s where the trophy stays now. Basically soccer helped stop the civil war over there. Thousands were slaughtered and everything he does for his country is unbelievable — he stays true to his roots and gives back to his country.
What’s your favorite movie? I really enjoy watching documentaries. One of my favorites right now is No End in Sight, about the war in Iraq. It was really interesting because a lot of people have opinions about the war, and it gave a lot of facts about what’s really going on over there. We’re in a society where we forget that it’s OK to be critical. That’s hard, especially when you have people who are dying. People have strong emotions. At the same time, I learned a lot about what’s going on over there and what people in Iraq are going through, which you don’t get to see or hear about a lot in the news here. It was also interesting because I’ve lived through this time and I remember how things were dealt with. So now looking back on it and where we are today, to me it’s kind of disappointing. It made me realize also how lucky we are to be in the situation we’re in — where I get to play basketball for a living. My whole life, my happiness, is based upon winning and losing. So at the same time that documentary put things in perspective for me.
What’s your favorite book? I would say Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. The book spoke a lot about the mental aspect of sports. I think the mental aspect is really important. Also Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson. My dad had told me about it and it was really interesting. I’ve always been a fan of Phil’s.
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