Steve Aschburner reports on why Luol Deng is in all probability the most interesting NBA player still playing in this years playoffs. Joakim Noah has an interesting backstory too, but not as deep a tale as Luol Deng’s:
A member of the Dinka tribe, Deng was born in the Republic of Sudan as one of nine children. He remains devoted to his homeland through his Luol Deng Foundation, which focuses on charitable work in Chicago, in London and back home. He is especially active in the Lost Boys of Sudan efforts to help.
• His father, Aldo, served in the Sudanese parliament and was the country’s Minister of Transportation before sending his family to Cairo, Egypt, to avoid Sudan’s civil war.
• While in Egypt, Deng received basketball instruction from former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka tribesman.
• When Deng was 8 years old, his father was granted political asylum in England. That explains his participation in international competition with the Great Britain national team, with an eye on the London Games in 2012.
• He came to New Jersey at age 14, sent with his older sister Arek. They enrolled at Blair Academy, a prep school in Blairstown, which promptly became a serious basketball threat. Arek went on to play at Delaware, their brother Ajou played at Fairfield and Connecticut and Deng spent the 2003-04 season at Duke.
He averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Blue Devils and became the seventh pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. (Phoenix traded his rights to Chicago for Jackson Vroman and a 2005 first-round pick that became Nate Robinson.)
In January, Deng was cheered by fellow relocated Sudanese at a makeshift polling station on the city’s North Side when he voted on a historic independence referendum for that country. At one point, he draped the Southern Sudan flag around him. The effort was successful and in July, the southern state will officially secede and Deng’s proud father Aldo will be there.
“It’s OK for people to take basketball seriously,” Deng told a New Jersey reporter after practice Monday. “It’s not something to resent or lecture them about, ‘Oh, you take all this for granted.’ … But I know how good I have it. Sometimes people struggle, even here in Chicago, and it’s no more than bad luck.” •
Oh yeah, we almost forgot: Deng is President Obama’s favorite NBA player.
(click here to continue reading Chicago’s Deng in position to add to already-lengthy resume | NBA.com.)