Joakim Noah Has Grown Up

Bulls forward has come a long way since his rookie year

When he became a member of the Chicago Bulls on June 28th, 2007 after being chosen with the ninth overall selection of the NBA draft, most Bulls fans probably didn't know what to make of him.  There was this tall, skinny kid with wild hair stuffed under a Bulls cap, wearing a suit that looked like it came out of the rejection pile of John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever wardrobe.  The bow tie accompanying the suit made him look like the biggest clown to hit Chicago since Bozo.

This was the kid the Bulls were about to invest millions of dollars in? 

Fast forward to Thursday night when that big goofy kid was stealing a pass and taking the ball down the full length of the court to throw down a monster dunk on last year's NBA Finals MVP, Paul Pierce, drawing the foul and knocking Pierce out of the game.  If there is going to be a lasting memory from the epic triple-overtime Bulls victory in game six, it will be the Joakim Noah dunk.  Though it didn't end the game, it basically decided who was going to emerge victorious.

He's only been here for two years now, but the transition Noah has made from the goofball we saw on draft night to the one dunking on Paul Pierce has been amazing.  Sure, he's still a little out there as evidenced to him answering a question following game four by yelling "I love you, mommy!  I see you," but he's become a player worthy of his high selection, and a possible cornerstone of this Bulls franchise for years to come.

While Bulls fans continue to wait on Tyrus Thomas to finally grow up and give a consistent effort, Noah has emerged as the team's emotional leader and somebody who can be counted on night in and night out.  Whether it's a coincidence or not, this metamorphosis seemed to begin when Brad Miller came to town from Sacramento.   Miller took the youngster under his wing and showed him what it takes to be a professional.  Unlike Thomas, Noah has listened, and it's paying off for him.

Just think, a few months ago there were rumors Noah was Phoenix-bound in a possible trade for Amare Stoudemire.  The trade never went down, and now Bulls fans should be grateful Joakim is still here.

He's still the big goofy kid who speaks in a language that's only known to him, but he's developed a maturity beyond his 24 years and has become a valuable member of a young team on the rise.  He may never be Amare Stoudemire, but Stoudemire will never be Joakim Noah either.

Along with writing for, Tom Fornelli can also be found contributing at FanHouse, SPORTSbyBROOKS, and his own Chicago sports blog Foul Balls.  He's still recovering from game six.

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