Believe it or not, but it’s already been seven years since we’ve last had the luxury of watching Joakim Noah don a Chicago Bulls uniform. Although his playing days are behind him, that doesn’t mean Joakim has stopped being one of the most impactful presences in Chicago basketball ever since.
Honored with a tribute video at the onset of the 2021 season, Noah has continued to have a relatively large presence in the league ever since. He joined the Bulls courtside in Paris earlier this season when they defeated the Detroit Pistons 126-108, and even coached a team at the Rising Stars Game at the 2023 All-Star Break, falling to fellow former Bull Pau Gasol in the championship round.
Even if he can’t physically be on the court these days, it’s clear to see that Noah wishes to have an impact in any way he can. Considering his role as the hype man and enforcer of those extremely talented Bulls teams of the early 2010s, it should come as no surprise that he’s found a new way to become a vocal leader for the community.
Earlier this month, Joakim Noah officially announced the opening of the One City Basketball League in Chicago. In an interview with The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Noah expressed how the mission of this program was to help unify the city and provide financial opportunities to a demographic that would otherwise have to look elsewhere for a payday.
Joakim Noah continues to prove he’s one of the greatest Chicago Bulls to ever do it, even after his playing days have come to a close.
We’re still waiting on details of the league to leak before we can know when the action will begin, but we do already know a lot about the program considering how early we are in the process. Right now, the league plans to officially launch, Noahs says. He’ll be partnering with 28 violence prevention groups to help get some underlooked talent on the court in the meantime.
The One City Basketball League will be primarily targeting a younger demographic, as players aged 16-25 will be able to participate in the games. Giving the youth a chance to make money doing something they love will hopefully help them stay out of trouble while making a fair amount of money to pursue their personal interests off the court.
Joakim explains what motivated him to undertake such a large endeavor in his interview with Charania.
"“Chicago is a place that gave me everything I had playing for the Chicago Bulls. So I always wanted to do work in the city. The city is divided in a lot of ways and one of the ways to unify this city is through hoop.”"
Having always been one of the biggest basketball philanthropists since joining the Bulls, Joakim has done a great deal of charitable work for the city including the Noah’s Arc Foundation, which specializes in promoting the arts, sports, and community outreach for children.
Making a move like this further exemplifies Noah’s evolved maturity over the years, as even he will admit that it hasn’t always been the case. “I can look back at it and say I was ready for New York City, but I wasn’t,” Noah said in an interview with Chris Vernon, “I remember after the first game I had 60 people in my house. I’m too lit to play in New York City… We were lit in Chicago but I was young so you recover faster.”
Instead of blowing his mountain of cash on an unsustainable lifestyle, Joakim has since turned to prioritize a way of life that will leave the world a better place and grant others the opportunity to excel in the same way he did. The One City Basketball League may just be another notch in Noah’s charitable belt, but for me, it’s yet another reminder of why Noah is not only one of the best players, but one of the best people to ever suit up for the Chicago Bulls.