Unlikely All-Stars

Luol and JoAs I’ve watched All-Star coverage this weekend, and actually, read even more, I’ve been thinking about our two 2013 Chicago Bulls All-Stars – Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

What is immediately apparent, first of all is how different they are, when it comes to their demeanor and approach.

Jo is emotional, excitable and you can always tell what he’s thinking. Mr. heart on his sleeve. Heart and soul of the Bulls.

Luol is significantly more even-keeled, deliberate and not exactly Mr. Excitement. The gentle giant. The quiet leader.

While their styles may vary significantly, the two are the same in what they mean to the Bulls. They’re the foundation. The rocks.

Not sure anyone wants to be called a rock…but I mean it entirely as a compliment.

And when you consider the paths they followed to get to NBA All-Star weekend, to the NBA, to college, and even, to play basketball in the first place – they both have unique, yet similar stories.

My fellow blogger, my idol Sam Smith recently wrote two truly insightful and inspirational blogs about Lu and Jo. He provides glimpses into who they are, where they came from, and the difficult roads they traveled. I encourage you to read both:

http://blogs.bulls.com/2013/02/luol-deng-heads-for-second-all-star-game-as-veteran/

http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/no-shortcuts-all-star-joakim-noahs-passion-leads-success-and-court.html

Their stories illustrate the amazing outcomes one can achieve through hard work and perseverance, despite unfavorable circumstances, when you may encounter more cynics than cheerleaders. Neither is flashy. They work hard, they do it for the team, and they celebrate together. Congratulations to Luol Deng and Joakim Noah! You make us Bulls fans proud.

To close, I thought I would provide insights into the mindset of an even more unlikely All-Star.

My faithful readers have come to realize that I’ve been taking basketball lessons for four months. When I began this journey, I also encountered a few critics/cynics/naysayers.

First, when I went to the manager’s office at East Bank Club to inquire about the lessons (I read about private b-ball lessons in the EBC flyer), the manager asked me how many children would be taking the lessons, and how old they were.

“Umm, no, mister, the lessons are for me!” A few of the staff members kind of snickered. I was not deterred.

And when I recently went out to dinner with a gal I hadn’t seen in a few years, she had the audacity to laugh – out loud – about my new-found pursuit. Well, I’ll show her…Ms. out-of-shape and haven’t worked out for months. Step aside. Cinjo’s in town.

So, four months into the lessons, I am proud to say I practiced three-pointers yesterday, for the first time. My 3FG% is pretty low: .143 (1 for 7 during the first round and 1 for 7 during the second round). I can at least boast about my consistency.

My coach, Brittany Johnson says she has the most fun during my lesson. I guess when your competition is made up of 4- and 5-year olds, it’s no great accomplishment.

To close, for kicks and giggles, below is a list of the top 10 things one hears on the court during my twice-monthly hour-long basketball lessons.

Sometimes, I’m just speaking to myself, but other times, it’s to my coach, Ms. Johnson.

10. Remember – don’t kill the student.
9. Am I still your best amateur player?
8. No, not the cones!
7. I’m paying for this?
6. Was that a travel? I think that was a travel.
5. Is it time for the Mikans?
4. Reminder – I’m 45, maybe even 46!
3. I don’t wanna do any more dibble drills.
2. Is that how they do it in the NBA?
1.Water break!

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