NBA legend Joakim Noah’s interview with Hype Magazine

Recently, we had the chance to interview NBA legend Joakim Noah while he was in South Africa community work with Hennessy. Hennessy has been actively supporting the African basketball community by refurbishing and handing over basketball courts across the continent in collaboration with NBA legend Joakim Noah. In Durban, Hennessy unveiled a newly refurbished basketball court on 200 Florida Road, adding to the list of courts they have built globally. This unveiling is the third In the Paint installation by Hennessy in South Africa. The first two courts were revealed in Johannesburg at Zoo Lake with artist R!OT (Sindiso Nyoni) and at Ernest Oppenheimer Park with artist African Ginger (Seth Pimentel).


You’ve played for some of the biggest franchises in the NBA: LA Clippers (1 season), Memphis Grizzlies (1 season), New York Knicks (2 seasons), and Chicago Bulls (9 seasons). Which fan base did you enjoy the most and where did you feel most appreciated? Also, which arenas and fan bases were the toughest to play against?

Good questions, I think for me personally, first thanks for having me. it’s a blessing before this In the paint initiative with Hennessy.  So, I would say obviously playing for a team like the Chicago Bulls that was as special as it gets, this is probably one of the most iconic sports symbols in the world. So being able to represent that, sometimes you play in other arenas, there’s more Chicago Bulls fans than their own fans, you know, so that’s what Chicago Bulls represent, obviously the greatest player of all time played there.  It was very special to have hope, obviously we didn’t win a championship, but the hope was there when the support was there. Chicago has a great fan base. Also New York City playing for the Knicks as well. you’re playing in Madison Square Garden. I don’t think it compares to anything in terms of tradition. Nothing is crazier than playing in Madison Square Garden.


Regarding the current NBA Playoffs: The Celtics are currently leading the series. Do you think the Mavericks have a chance to take the series all the way to game 7?

I think that Dallas has a chance, but Boston has a lot of talent. You think of their star players like Tatum and Jalen Brown, but when you look around, they have a guy like Christa Porzingis who’s coming off the bench that just shows you the amount of the talent on that team. Everybody is sacrificing their individual potential to be able to win and you can see it’s obvious by the way that they’re playing. And its going to be hard for Dallas to come back.

Who is your current favourite NBA player?

A lot of these players I’ve known since they were kids, for example, Jalen Brunson’s father was my coach at the Bulls. So, I used to go to his games when he was 11 or 12 years old and now, he’s the star on the New York Knicks. The support is more because of the friendship I had with the parents, but I love what he’s doing, I’m very proud of Jalen Brunson, Paolo Banchero at Orlando as well. I’m very proud of him, I love the way he plays the game, and he is only 20 years old.

Hennessy continues to uplift and invest in African basketball talent and the basketball community. Do you think that as a continent, we will reach the level of European, Asian, and American standards of basketball?

I feel like that’s the goal. it’s a big task because we have a lot of work to do. There are platforms like NBA Africa, like the BAL and Hennessy who are interested in growing basketball on the continent.  And I think this is very special, but we must structure ourselves, we have to organize ourselves to be able to make sure that the leagues are running well and making sure that the younger kids have opportunities to play as well. So, we have a lot of work to do, but having partners like Hennessy, having partners like the NBA helps. These are people who have the vision, who want to do this kind of work and who want to grow basketball on the continent.


You were eliminated from title contention by LeBron James four times in your career. Do you still have any beef with him, and what was the hardest part about facing LeBron James?

Well, the hardest part about facing LeBron James was losing in the playoffs, that was the hardest part.  Unfortunately, in my 13-year career, I would say there was probably only one or two chances to win a championship. And I think that that’s a tough pill to swallow still to this day, but overall, you must give credit Lebron, he is probably the best player that I’ve ever had to compete against. And unfortunately, he beat us four times in the playoffs.  that’s the reality of playing against one of the greatest, probably the greatest that I’ve ever played against.

It’s your second time coming down with South Africa, you are here to unveil Hennessy’s latest ‘In the Paint’ basketball court, firstly what has your experience of country been like, what do you like the most and which city do you prefer? Durban or Joburg?

I think the two cities are very different I just got to Durban last night and it’s hard to compare.  If I had been here for a week or two, maybe I could give you a little bit more of analysis. I love the energy of South Africa. There’s a toughness here that reminds me of New York in a lot of ways. Hip hop is a big part of the culture over here, and it’s a beautiful bridge.

My side of the family is from Cameroon, and I don’t feel the same resonance with hip hop when it comes to the music. Here It’s Amapiano. You could just feel it on the people the way they dance in the clubs. It’s like it’s street, it’s hip hop, you can see the influence of hip hop in it. I love the vibe here. It resonates with who I am and what I like, So, South Africa is dope, man. There’s a lot to see here and I’m enjoying my time in Durban as well.


Tell us bit more about your journey with Hennessy and ‘In the Paint’, how has it been so far, and which courts are your favourite

This initiative In the Paint with Hennessy has been very special to me. it’s an initiative that brings art and basketball together. I had never seen a concept before where you see a local artist make a beautiful design that represents the community and the area. It Is something new and it is a beautiful concept. To be able to do that on the continent is not easy. There is a lot of work, there is a lot of people putting in their time, and their efforts to be able to create these courts to help the next generation.  So, big shout out to Hennessy for taking the time and putting  in the work on the continent because as we know,  not everybody has a genuine approach when it comes to the continent and I’m just really proud that I’m able to associate with a brand that genuinely cares about doing things here.


What has been the highlight of your career and what can we expect from you and Hennessy in the few years?

I think that one of the highlights has been able to stay involved in basketball after my career, basketball has given me opportunity to take care of my people, my loved ones, my family, my kids and giving them a good education.  My highlights are being able to build a league in America called One City, where we bring kids from different neighbourhoods together to play and compete. It’s also making sure that it’s not just a basketball league, there are courses where we teach them financial literacy, there’s a peace circle, where we can talk about the issues in the community. These platforms even though they are basketball oriented, this is all much bigger than the game of basketball.

This initiative with Hennessy, is still the beginning. This is my eighth time doing this initiative refurbishing a court with a local artist and partnering with Hennessy to do this.

The courts in Africa mean something different because we just did one in my village in Cameroon, it is very different when it’s the motherland, because it is not just branding or trying to make the pictures look good, this is something that’s much deeper than that, so I’m really proud of this initiative. I’m very proud to be the ambassador for this initiative and hopefully we can keep growing and do much more.

All the best with your future and everything you’re doing, from Hype, basketball fans in Africa. We appreciate your time.

Peace out, bro, respect. 

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