A while ago a trainer who has worked with Joakim Noah, Dan Barto, compared Noah's personality to Muhammad Ali's. A lot of people thought that was outlandish, in the comments, but having met Noah (but not, alas, Ali) and talked to him, I am prepared to believe there are some kernels of truth there.
Anne Stein of MSNBC recently asked Noah about athletes he admires, and his answer affirmed the notion that he's thinking about the big picture.
My favorite athlete has to be Muhammad Ali, of course. I think he's an inspiration. Currently, there's a soccer player for Chelsea, Didier Drogba, from the Ivory Coast. Both of those guys are great athletes and at the top of their sports, but what they did away from the field or ring was the most interesting or inspiring to me. They are people whose messages will never be forgotten even when they leave us.
With Drogba, there was a big civil war in the Ivory Coast, and the national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in the country's history, in the last World Cup. They competed and when Drogba won the MVP award, he brought it home to a region of the country that was at war with his region of the country. And that's where the trophy stays now. Basically soccer helped stop the civil war over there. Thousands were slaughtered and everything he does for his country is unbelievable -- he stays true to his roots and gives back to his country.
I say this only half as a joke: if Joakim Noah is looking for an area of conflict in need of meaningful resolution, he could start with whatever is going on with the Chicago Bulls organization. Doesn't it seem like they have a different player vs. organization pissing match every week?