One of the defining periods of Chicago Bulls history came in 2010. The team had a superstar centerpiece in Derrick Rose. They felt primed for pursuit of a championship. All they needed was one last push. That opportunity came in the summer when NBA free agency opened. Three stars led the way in LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. Landing any of them would’ve pushed the Bulls’ title hopes into overdrive.
Instead, the three players decided to join forces in Miami. A decision that ended up costing Chicago dearly as the Heat knocked them out of the playoffs that same season and again in 2012-2013. Yet people don’t realize how close it was to be so different. Brian Windhorst wrote a massive article detailing that entire free agency sequence. He made it clear the Bulls were a prime player most of the way.
Their pitches to Wade and Bosh went very well. The last man they needed to court was James. Yet it never really went anywhere.
So what happened?
Most blame Derrick Rose and his lack of interest in the recruitment process. This was indeed part of it. However, there was another more central issue as it turns out. That was the presence of Joakim Noah.
“There was another issue for the Bulls, though: Derrick Rose, the team’s young star, wasn’t deeply involved in the recruiting process.
Another of their young players, Joakim Noah, ended up as the primary player voice. Although Noah has a magnetic personality and developed into a star recruiter in his days at the University of Florida, he was not the franchise player. He also had an acrimonious relationship with James. Underscoring that, Noah called James that week, and James never called him back.
Rose declined to be part of the pitch to James, instead recording a video.”
LeBron James didn’t like Noah because that’s what Noah wanted
While there is no defining origins for where Noah and James started their feud, one can imagine he gained a lot of traction in the 2009-2010 playoffs. The Bulls were ousted by James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. During that time the two got physical constantly and were seen jawing at each other as well. Noah already had a reputation for being a pest and a trash talker. A guy who played on pure emotion. He relished getting the star of opposing teams to hate him.
The problem is obviously that comes with consequences. Namely decreasing the odds of any of those star players wanting to play with you. This is what happened in the case with James. The fact the superstar declined to even take his call says just how much he disliked him. Maybe Rose could’ve softened that issue if he’d been more involved. Instead, his aloofness only seemed to harden James’ stance.
He instead went to Miami and ultimately closed the door on the Bulls’ best shot to win a title a few months later.