Noah's high school AAU coach and and long-time mentor, Tyrone Green, passed suddenly last week due to a heat attack at the age of 63. The center was excused from the team's practice last Friday on bereavement leave to join Green's family in New York. He returned to Chicago on Saturday for practice and was outplayed on both ends of the floor by Washington's Nene in the Bulls 102-93 Game One loss on Sunday.
"This award goes to somebody who I'll never forget," Noah said at a press conference to announce the award. "Somebody who just passed and meant so much to me, who believed in me. Mr. Green, I love you and I appreciate you and I know you're smiling down right now really proud. This award goes to you.
"This award is not about me. But this is about our team."
The two-time All-Star center finished with 100 of 125 first-place votes. Indiana's Roy Hibbert and Los Angeles' DeAndre Jordan finished second and third, respectively. Noah finished fourth in last season's balloting.
He becomes the second players in Bulls franchise history to win the award as Michael Jordan won it in the 1987-88 season.
Noah also took time to thank the coach that matches, and sometimes best his intensity, Tom Thibodeau. "Without your system, this wouldn't be possible."
It could've been easy for the anchor of the league's best ranked defense, in terms of points allowed (91.8), to be overcome with grief and anger when Derrick Rose went down with a second season-ending knee injury just 10 games into the season or when Luol Deng was traded by the team in early January, but as he has through his entire basketball career, when faced with adversity, Noah worked and outplayed critics expectations of him.
He finished the season with averages of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, a career-high 5.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals in 35.3 minutes per game in helping lead the Bulls to the Eastern Conference's fourth-best record.
He's come a long way from being a young player, fresh from winning two National Championships at the University of Florida, being boo'd by the United Center faithful, to now hearing the chants of M-V-P when he steps up to the free throw line.
"Each year I think he's gotten better and better," Thibodeau said. "And I think that's a testament to his will and determination. And he's improved in many different areas. Everyone talks about the passing and his defense but offensively, his scoring, his leadership, his professionalism (have grown)."