A statement was released Thursday by the Bulls, commemorating Deng’s career:
“From the moment we made Luol Deng the seventh overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls became a better team,” said Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson.
“Luol carried himself with first-class professionalism and leadership, helping lead his Bulls team to eight playoff appearances during his time in Chicago. We’ll always remember his All-Star career and the fierce competitiveness he brought to both ends of the floor every night.”
Born in what is now South Sudan, Deng fled the war struck nation as a child to settle in the UK, becoming a British citizen in 2006 and representing Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic Games. At the age of 14, he made another move, this time to the US to play basketball at Blair Academy in New Jersey.
Receiving an athletic scholarship to Duke, the power forward entered the 2004 NBA Draft after only one year at the college, picked 7th overall by the Phoenix Suns he was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls on a prior agreement.
The two-time All-star was traded to the Cavaliers in 2014 and became a free agent that summer only to land a deal with Miami Heat, replacing LeBron James who took his place at Cleveland. After two years in Miami, Deng signed a massive $72mil four year deal with the LA Lakers that was eventually waived after reaching a buyout agreement.
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In September 2018, Deng signed a deal with the Timberwolves in a final season that saw him reunited with former Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau. Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard and Deng himself became the last remaining players on the NBA rosters from the 2004 draft class.
The 6’9” double All-star led the NBA in minutes per game in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, made the All-Rookie First Team in 2004-05 and the All-Defensive Second Team in 2011-12.
Appearing in a total of 902 games, 828 of which he started in, Deng is also commemorated for his work off the court. He was recognised with the J Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2013-14 and was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement at the Best of Africa Awards in London earlier this month.
Deng continues to shine in his efforts for the global basketball community with Deng Camp held in the UK, US and Australia (alongside the South Sudan National Classic) each year as well as his foundation’s work with Giants of Africa.
The Luol Deng Foundation provide areas in Africa with outdoor basketball courts, initiatives to bring local communities together and works with the NBA Cares programme in the US.
Although Luol Deng has hung up his NBA jersey, his impact in global basketball is far from over.