Joakim Noah is MVP of Steve Nash’s soccer game
BY KYLE KOSTER Special to the Sun-Times June 27, 2013 3:55PM
Updated: June 27, 2013 3:56PM
NEW YORK – Joakim Noah showed no ill effects from the plantar fasciitis that plagued him at the end of last season as he hustled and scrambled for every 50-50 ball Wednesday night in New York City.
The Bulls center traded in his basketball shoes for, well, a different pair of basketball shoes and participated in Steve Nash’s annual charity soccer game at a small public park on the city’s Lower East Side.
His expectations before kickoff were low.
He categorized his soccer skills as “not very good” and admitted he hadn’t played in an organized game since college.
“I can’t promise a goal,” he said.
It turns out he was playing possum.
Competing for Team USA, Noah scored the game-winning goal in the final minutes and was named the game’s MVP in an event that featured the same level of defense on display at a typical NBA All-Star Game.
Not bad for a guy wearing hightops.
His Bulls teammate Marco Belinelli suited on for Team World, and although he didn’t find the back of the net, his performance on the pitch was more skillful than Noah’s.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I’m a basketball player, not a soccer player.”
At one point, Noah theatrically drew a foul on Belinelli that would have run afoul of the league’s anti-flopping policy, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.
“We played against each other on national teams and I know this guy well,” said Belinelli, who described a friendly rivalry between the two. “He’s a great guy and I love him. He’s a guy everyone wants to have on their team.”
The 8-on-8 pickup game is the brainchild of Steve Nash and raises funds for underprivileged children. This year’s crop of NBA and international soccer stars included Baron Davis, U.S. men’s national team defender Oguchi Onyewu, and Italian forward Guiseppe Rossi.