JOAKIM Noah is a star forward on the No 1-ranked University of Florida (UF) men's basketball team.
Noah's widely predicted to be a top pick in the 2007 NBA draft. But the 21-year-old started his team's first exhibition game on the bench because he was late for his 11:40 am African studies class.
For an NBA hopeful like Noah, university is never just university — a life of classes, tests, papers and parties. It's also a preview to the pressures of life as a star.
Noah is the son of French pop star and former professional tennis player Yannick Noah. But he's trying to step out from under his father's shadow and "be [his] own person".
Noah stands at 213 cm and has a ponytail that bounces off the back of his head when he runs up and down the court. He doesn't necessarily have Hollywood good looks, but good looks don't score baskets.
In the national championship game against UCLA, cheerleaders from the other team teased Noah as he stood out of bounds. "They'd been talking a lot of trash," Noah said after the game. "They were just talking crazy to me, like, 'You're so ugly.' I mean, it hurts when you have so many beautiful girls telling you how ugly you are."
Noah's response? He blew them a kiss.
If Noah's kiss didn't win over the UCLA cheerleaders, he didn't really seem to care. After the game, his team celebrated the school's first-ever national title in basketball. A few days later, they were to visit the White House.
But Noah refused to go. He opposed the war in Iraq, and felt his visit would violate his convictions. "I thought, 'Why would I go there?'" Noah told USA Today in October. "I have different views from who's in power."
But UF men's basketball coach Billy Donovan convinced Noah to go. He argued that Noah's attendance didn't mean he supported the war — and that a protest would ruin his team's championship celebration.
"Jo [Noah] doesn't like war," Donovan told USA Today. "When it came to the White House issue, I think it was more, 'Why do those kids have to go fight and I get to play basketball? That's not right.' That's the thing about Jo. He never looks at anyone being better than anyone else."
NBA draft: NBA选秀
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