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Dentist appointments and ‘70s pickup games helped lead Joakim Noah to Phil Jackson

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It always comes down to dentistry, doesn’t it?

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Knicks team president Phil Jackson and recently-acquired center Joakim Noah are both men of the world, known almost as much for their varied interests outside of basketball as they are for their work on the court. If asked to guess the person who first introduced these two, a whole host of ideas come to mind: a Hopi medicine man, T. Bone Burnett, a Sherpa, super chef Bobby Flay, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi. Perhaps the last person to come to mind would be Noah’s dentist.

But it was indeed the 71-year-old Daniel Rudolph, D.D.S., who provided the connection, which led to Noah randomly show up at Phil’s Montana home a few years back. Stefan Bondy tells the story of Rudolph’s relationship with Jackson, which dates back to 1971, when the two would play pick-up games in Greenwich Village. I highly recommend giving it a read.

The two are still friends, with the occasional dentist/patient soiree thrown in:

“When Phil went to California, he got another dentist there,” Rudolph said. “But when he broke a tooth here, I fixed his tooth here.”

As fate would have it, Rudolph would eventually work on another patient with NBA and New York roots in Joakim Noah. It was Rudolph who gave Noah Phil’s address in Montana — with Phil’s permission, of course — which led to the now-famous story of Noah just showing up at his door and hanging around for a few days.

Was it fate, or just plain old dentistry? You be the judge.