Credit: Stan Honda, AFP/GettyImages

Watching Joakim Noah lumber up and down the court—fingers flared out in his peculiar overexaggerated running motion, snarl affixed just below tufts of wilded-out and sweaty curls—doesn’t bring to mind elegance. More like guts. The 28-year-old Bulls center was your favorite player on this season’s beaten-up play-off team. He had to have been. Noah averaged 34 minutes in the play-offs (38 in the Miami Heat series), ten points per game, and nearly ten rebounds—and he did it all on a bum foot stricken with plantar fasciitis. The team had no Luol Deng and no Kirk Hinrich for more than half of its play-off games. And no Derrick Rose at all. Noah had little choice but to grind it out with third-stringers and bang around in the paint, possession after possession, for offensive tip-ins and defensive boards. One of the NBA’s most physical defenders and a pesky nuisance to other teams, he’s not only about the stiff elbows he digs into opponents’ backs, but also the nice dose of extracurricular (some might call obnoxious) banter—as evidenced by the pure joy he got in egging on a verbal fight between Heat teammates Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers. Combine the will with the attitude, and I’m just glad he’s on my team.