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Joakim Noah continues to do good for Chicago with One City Basketball League

Matt Peck Avatar
May 13, 2023

Joakim Noah quickly won the hearts of Bulls fans everywhere for giving everything he had every time he stepped on an NBA court in a Bulls jersey.

He remains in fans hearts because of everything he has done and continues to do off the court for the people – and especially the kids – of Chicago.

The latest example of that unfolded at the Stadium studio within the United Center on Saturday morning. Noah’s charity, the Noah’s Arc Foundation, in partnership with 28 other violence prevention organizations, held a media day officially launching the One City Basketball League. Noah sat at the podium along with the program’s Manager Yolam Anderson-Golhor and Cobe Williams, Founder of Transform Justice and Noah’s longtime activism advisor and partner. Also at the podium were Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and Illinois Senator Elgie Sims.

Anderson-Golhor laid out how the league will operate, and some of the benefits and opportunities it will provide not only the players in the league, but also their families. There are financial incentives for the players, but the program will also provide job placement opportunities, integrated workshops, mental health resources and family services for all involved. Representatives for the program are well experienced and trained in both addressing trauma and conflict resolution.

Beginning May 20, the One City League will play games on the South and West sides of the city, with a focus on young men, aged 16-25. Two divisions, each comprised of 14 teams, will play games each weekend leading to a championship game on August 10th.

Noah began his remarks by thanking everybody for showing up on a Saturday, noting it says a lot about how much people care about this project. As he spoke, it became more and more clear that his role in this endeavor is to provide support, and shine the light on the people doing the heavy lifting.

“Starting a peace tournament, it’s a beautiful thing,” Noah said. “I want to thank the 28 different groups who are here today. Having those conversations with you guys, it’s always so inspiring. Because you guys are the real heroes. You guys are the ones putting in the work every day.”

“This is not what I’m comfortable doing,” he continued, referring to his current spotlight with a microphone. “But I understand team, and I understand that everybody has a role. I understand my role and I’m gonna try to play it as well as I can. Everybody who’s here right now has a role, and a commitment to this city. And I’m really proud to be a part of that.”

Williams, whom Joakim very evidently admires, spoke passionately about the violence ailing our great city, and how helping Joakim and the Noah’s Arc Foundation in this endeavor means even more to someone who’s done violence prevention work all over the world.

“I’ve been doing this work close to 20-some years,” Williams said. “I’m the community director of Noah’s Arc Foundation. I do a lot of work as the national director of Cure Violence Global, Transform Justice, everything…but I love what we are doing every day to make a difference in our city, though. It’s so important. And anybody who knows about Chicago, knows you’ve got to bring people together.”

Williams offered insight on his approach to reaching the youth of Chicago, saying, “I love this work because we don’t look at our brothers and sisters as bad people. We understand they make choices – we aren’t saying it’s the wrong choice – it’s important to not be judgmental and to meet these young people where they are … You have to meet them where they are and let them know you really care for them.”

This bond that Noah and Williams have forged over the past decade-plus of friendship and charity work is clearly a driving force that helped spearhead the One City program. But as both men said, it’s so much bigger than any one of them. There are a lot of moving parts to this, but the main goal is simple: bring the youth of Chicago together through basketball, and offer help and resources in as many ways as we can.


All hands on deck.

Y’all know me and my love for Jo. This is why. Simply. This. Is. Why. The Bulls fan in me loved his fight and raw emotion on the court, sure. But the Chicagoan in me who loves this city, loves the man who gives so much of his passion, time and money to help those committed to doing the groundwork this city – and its youth – really needs.

We’ll spend some time on Monday’s show talking more about the One City Media Day event, and how Bulls fans who are interested can do their part in helping this wonderful program. In the meantime, you can find more information about the One City Basketball League on their social media platforms, @onecitybball on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

To donate to the Noah’s Arc Foundation, go to https://www.noahsarcfoundation.org/donate

See Red. Be Good. Joakim Forever.


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