By GLENN MINNIS
Ever wonder why Joakim Noah always seems to highlight most everyone's list of their favorite NBA stars?
Trust and believe, it goes far beyond him just being the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and his status as one of the league's toughest-minded and most unrelenting competitors.
The essence of just who Joakim Noah is was on full display on Friday as the All-Star center tirelessly worked a Major Adams Community Center room of teens and adolescents. He preached about a gun and gang violence culture so wildly out-of-control it has all but brought his beloved Chicago hometown whimpering to its knees.
"It's very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that's going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that's going on on the West Side," Noah said of his motivation for launching his "Stand Up Chicago" campaign. "This is a Chicago problem."
As part of his hopefully life-saving agenda, Noah also enlisted the aid of teammate and Chi-Town native son Derrick Rose, who appears on a 60-second PSA released in conjunction with the initiative.
"I stand for my city," boldly proclaims Rose, who is joined in the PSA by rap star and fellow Chicago native Common. Later Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, released a statement through his Noah's Arc Foundation that implored all Chicagoans "take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity."
Over just the first seven months of this year, at least 207 homicides have been committed in Chicago, including a recent treacherous July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reports at least 16 were killed and 82 injured over a period of just three-and-half days. In the face of such insufferable tragedy, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness.
Joakim Noah is convinced there's still far more that needs to be done.
"As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I'm somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important," he said. "The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some home, change and support to the community."
In time, Noah plans to host tournaments for grade schoolers and 18-21-year-olds on the same United Center courts he and Rose now regularly star on. But the scope of this movement is so much more than just hoops.
"We have to find a way together, whether you're rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together," said Noah, adding that his foundation will promote many of the arts as a means of offering youths activities that could keep them off the streets and thus provoke positive community upliftment. "To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship."
There may be bigger NBA stars than Joakim Noah, but how many can you argue really resonate as greater human beings?
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