Philippine basketball

‘Blessed to be here’: Joakim Noah relishes first Manila visit

Philip Matel

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‘Blessed to be here’: Joakim Noah relishes first Manila visit

BIG MAN. Joakim Noah leads a Jr. NBA and WNBA clinic in Manila, Philippines.

NBA Philippines

Two-time NBA All-Star Joakim Noah says he has enjoyed his first visit to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipinos’ incomparable passion for basketball once again captivated a visitor, this time former NBA big man Joakim Noah.

The two-time NBA All-Star stayed in the country for about a week, doing various activities like serving as a global liquor brand ambassador, playing pickup basketball, and teaching the next generation of Filipino hoopers.

“I didn’t get to see the professional leagues, but it was very interesting to see being out here and seeing how much the people in Manila really love basketball,” Noah told Rappler in an exclusive interview.

“There’s a real resilience and a competitive spirit. We even played a pickup game the other day. So I definitely felt that energy from the people,” he added.

“You could feel that basketball is really part of the culture.”

Noah, the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is known mostly for his time with the Chicago Bulls, helping the team during a short revival of the franchise powered by Derrick Rose.

The Bulls, one of the more popular franchises in the Philippines owing to their six championships in the 1990s, continue to attract fans.

As soon as he arrived from a 30-hour flight, Noah received a warm welcome from Filipinos, with the 6-foot-11 center signing autographs and gamely posing for photos.

“I’m almost 40 years old and I haven’t played in a professional game in almost five years,” said Noah, who last played professionally with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020.

“And to see that the people still know the Chicago Bulls from when I was playing there 10 years ago, I feel really blessed to be here.”

Noah concluded his stay in the Philippines by leading the joint Junior NBA and WNBA camp at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City on Sunday, June 30.

Guiding 50 teenage boys and girls, Noah was joined by Natalia Andre, an ex-pro basketball player herself.

Noah also led the unveiling of the refurbished CCP Bukaneg Court located just behind the main building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on Friday, June 28.

The court, renovated by French cognac distiller Hennessy, is part of the company’s global initiative dubbed “In the Paint.”

It was designed by local artist Kiefer “Kiefsix” Indiongco, who used indigenous elements in the color scheme. He also designed the Nike Courtyard in Taguig City, which was opened in 2023.

“[Noah’s] a huge cultural activist. He’s an art enthusiast himself. He does a lot of community work and authentic collaboration with us,” program head Pascale Kalambaie said.

“He does a lot of work in Africa, across the US and Asia as well, so he’s a great ambassador as well.” –

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