DEERFIELD, Ill. — Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah let it be known Thursday that he was none-too-thrilled with getting a middle finger thrust into his face as he walked off the court after getting ejected during Wednesday’s playoff defeat against the Miami Heat.
In a photo that has made the rounds on the Internet, Noah can be seen walking off the American Airlines court in Miami with a female fan thrusting the lone digit into his face.
Noah was reluctant to get too in depth about the incident after practice Thursday, but shot upright when asked if he typically has fun with fan interaction.
“Do you have fun when somebody sticks their middle finger in your face?” Noah said to ESPNChicago.com.
Noah admitted that unruly fans, especially during road games, are part of the gig, and concurred that hostile treatment goes back as far as high school as it has for most players who have reached the professional level.
“It’s all good,” he said. “It’s all part of the process. It’s all part of the process.”
It was an example of Noah showing composure after not having much of it when calls started going against him and his teammates early in Wednesday’s game. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is making on-court composure a priority for the team moving forward in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“Not only Joakim, but our entire team,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to do better, do a better job with that. You can’t get sidetracked. We know how it’s going to be called. We’re not going to get calls. We just got to be tough mentally, physically, emotionally. We’ve got to be a lot stronger.”
Thibodeau did address Noah’s ability to ignore the middle finger in his face.
“You can’t get wrapped up in stuff that’s not important,” Thibodeau said. “The important stuff is to concentrate on doing your job and to have the toughness, the physical and mental and emotional toughness, to get through all the things that you have to go through on the road. For the most part, Jo has done a good job with that, but as a team we let our emotion get to us. We can’t do that.”
Noah said obscene gestures wouldn’t ruin his day.
“I love the game,” he said. “I love basketball. I feel very blessed.”
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel identified the fan who gave Noah the middle finger as Filomena Tobias, the widow of former CNBC commentator and hedge fund manager Seth Tobias.
“She’s embarrassed, but she is being a good sport,” Tobias’ daughter, Victoria Racanati, told the newspaper. “She was having fun just like any other fan. All she has to say is that people need to get a life.”
Racanati said the family is Miami season-ticket holders who attend every game.