All in the family: Yannick gives Joakim a boost


Nov 11

If it appeared Joakim Noah played with a slightly higher level of energy and enthusiasm on Thursday, the credit may go to his father, Yannick Noah, in town to see his son play for the first time this season.

The elder Noah, a former professional tennis player who won the men’s singles title at the French Open in 1983, lives in France and has a second career as a musician in full bloom. With a busy tour about to commence—a docket of more than 15 shows that starts at the end of November and a larger tour of 130 concerts that will commence in January—he wanted to make sure he saw his son play while his schedule allowed.

“My Pops is my best friend,” said Joakim. “He was an athlete before me, so we’ve had some similar experiences. When I talk to my Dad, I ask him for advice because he’s been through this before. It feels good to spend time with him. Even though I don’t get to see him much, he’s always been there for me. It always gets me very excited to have him around. I’m very lucky.”

Yannick, who arrived in Chicago on Monday and will return to his home in Paris on Friday, said he usually tries to see Joakim play in person six to eight times a year. Watching games from France can be difficult due to the difference in times, he acknowledged.

“The problem is the games are on so late at night in France,” said Yannick. “But I follow all his games and sometimes I can’t sleep when he has a game.”

When asked about the start of Joakim’s season, in which he has become the first player in Bulls history to average 15 or more points and rebounds over the first six games of a season (the only other active players in the NBA to do that are Kevin Garnett, who did it twice, and Shaquille O’Neal), Yannick smiled.

“He’s feeling good,” Yannick said of Joakim. “He’s happy and that’s what matters. He’s healthy and he’s really excited about this season. He’s alive when he’s on the court. All of this is so big that sometimes I worry it can be overwhelming. But I like the fact that he’s himself out there. I’m very proud of him.”

Yannick said that he and Joakim talk every day. As with every father-son relationship, it’s changed over the years.

“When he was a kid, it was, ‘You do what I say.’ Then he started to grow up and he’s become very professional,” explained Yannick. “He knows what he wants. So when we talk now, it’s more of an exchange about little details. He’s very good with his preparation, routine and the people around him.”

Though he’s wildly popular in his native country, Yannick’s music isn’t exactly chart topping material in the United States. When asked how he puts his father’s popularity in perspective, Joakim was happy to summarize.

“He’s pretty big over there,” said Joakim of Yannick. “It’s been like that my whole life. He’s doing what he loves to do with music and he’s the No. 1 selling artist in France. When he played in Stade de France—that’s where France won the World Cup in 1998—it was in front of 80,000 people. He told me he would disown me if I didn’t go, so I didn’t have a choice, even though it was only a day or so before Media Day. I knew I was going to get a little heat for it, but you have to put family first sometimes.”

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