Football runs in the Noah family's veins, though only the eldest of the clan, grandfather Zacharie, made a career out of it. Joakim's father, Yannick, was a tennis legend before making a name for himself as a singer. Jooks, meanwhile, plays basketball for a living, but his passion for the beautiful game remains alive and kicking. He jumps at the chance to play every summer, often with his friend Steve Nash in tow, although during the season he has to settle for watching games on TV whenever he can.
FIFA.com caught up with the European basketball silver medallist to talk football in the Bulls dressing room at the United Center, Chicago. Fresh from a heavy defeat, Joakim was glad for the distraction.
FIFA.com: If you could vote for the Ballon d'Or, who would you pick?
Joakim Noah: My heart says Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Firstly, because he’s Swedish and I love the country and the people. Not to mention the joy he's bringing Paris and the Parc des Princes – the rest of the PSG players love him. He’s an amazing talent and everyone appreciates what he does.
You’re a Paris Saint-Germain fan. Are you able to follow their matches and results regularly during the season?
Not really. It's not easy when you’re in America. But I’m really thrilled to see Zlatan there. When I was growing up it was all about George Weah, Rai, David Ginola and Daniel Bravo. Not forgetting Bruno N'Gotty and the great Bernard Lama, of course. I used to go nuts when, instead of picking it up, he'd do little side-shuffles with the ball. That was the team I grew up watching: I used to go down to the Parc [des Princes] every Saturday.
So are those your first memories as a football fan?
Right. Dad used to take me to the stadium when I was a kid and I still remember an overhead kick by Amara Simba; it was against Nantes, I think. I went wild. Seeing something like that in the flesh at the Parc des Princes was incredible. I was seven or eight at the time and when it happened, I remember saying to myself "Wow, I was there! I'm here in the crowd to see this goal."
What is your favourite footballing memory?
Definitely the 1998 World Cup, although not the France matches, because I was in Sweden at the time. Though I did go to the Stade de France for the opening game between Scotland and Brazil. I was seated next to four barmy Scottish fans. They had had a tad too much to drink, let's say, and they created an unbelievable atmosphere. They were wearing kilts – it was amazing. Every time Ronaldo did something good they would hurl swear words at him, but without overstepping the mark. The buzz in the crowd, the atmosphere created by those four Scottish supporters, is the reason why I loved that match so much. It was fantastic. I was so swept away that I ended up supporting Scotland, when I was originally rooting for Brazil (laughing).
To go back to the Ballon d'Or, who would you put alongside Zlatan to complete your dream podium?
I would have Didier Drogba in second, because I'm a huge fan of his. And Samuel Eto'o would be third, since he's flying the flag for Cameroon!
Was it hard for you to find time for football as a youngster, when you already had basketball and school to balance?
Just living in America makes it that much harder to catch matches, but I found a way. I never missed many of PSG's big games, especially when they played Marseille. I was even lucky enough to go to Munich to watch the 1993 [Champions League] final between Marseille and AC Milan – my dad took me. I also went to the Maracana to see Flamengo play when I was out in Brazil with the Bulls, which was amazing. I've seen some top matches and the atmosphere at football stadiums really is incredible. It's something you've got to experience. Even someone who doesn't follow the sport on a daily basis and doesn't know all the players can have a great time at a match, whether in Europe or in Brazil. Personally speaking, the atmosphere generated by the fans is what blows me away.
Last, but not least, do you think there are many parallels between football, which you play for fun, and basketball?
There are definitely similarities in terms of the sacrifices you have to make for the good of the team. Beyond that, having spoken about it with dad, I know that even individual sports have a lot in common with team games.