Basketball superstar

British Basketball Superstar – Eastlondonlines

Croydon NBA Superstar Luol Deng

Ask a kid who their favorite British sportsman is and they’ll respond with the name of a footballer or maybe Andy Murray, Mo Farah or Sir Bradley Wiggins. But Luol Deng of Croydon, could very likely walk past the school he was attending without attracting much attention.

Deng, whose family fled the conflict in Sudan to start a new life in Britain, is one of the stars of the Chicago Bulls basketball team, whose season started last week in a great enthusiasm. They are expected to mount a serious challenge for basketball’s biggest prize, the National Basketball Association title.

The 28-year-old Deng has just entered the final year of a six-year, $ 71 million contract, giving him an annual salary that only Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney can eclipse.

Bulls fan President Barack Obama said Deng was “an inspiration” and his favorite player. His status as one of the league’s best players has also been recognized by NBA fans, players and coaches, who have voted him into the prestigious NBA All-Star Game for the past two seasons.

However, despite his American success, Deng always returns regularly to Croydon where his mother lives, and currently participates in the financing of sports projects for local young people. And while his name may not resonate with most UK sports fans, he is well known enough that he persuaded the government to reverse their decision to cut funding for the GB basketball team. after the Olympics last year.

Ahead of last year’s London Games, Deng explained the low profile of basketball in the UK: “I think it’s a benevolent question: funding can be found and the organization could be better if people care, but i don’t think they do. “

Only his passionate letter to David Cameron made the government reconsider. Deng wrote:

“We have all heard of the ‘legacy’ London 2012 was going to bring to sport in the UK and I refuse to stand idly by and let that legacy be completely demolished for basketball.”

Deng continued, “I, along with other people involved in the game, have invested too much and I care too much about letting this happen.” £ 7million was awarded in March 2013 following the appeal.

Deng, one of nine siblings, moved to Croydon at the age of nine, when his family fled the dangers of civil war. Originally an aspiring footballer, he was persuaded to take up basketball by his brothers and joined the Brixton Topcats at the age of 13.

Topcats head coach Jimmy Rogers believes his ex-student is extremely underrated at home. He said: “When the Americans (United States basketball team) were here last year for the Olympics, they were shocked that he didn’t have a bigger face with the Games. Olympic. “

Rogers was keen to stress: “It doesn’t have to do with Luol, it’s to do with sport and the British negative attitude towards basketball.”

The 14-year-old Deng was spotted and offered a scholarship to Blair Academy in New Jersey, an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

Blair’s head basketball coach Joe Mantegna fondly recalls Deng’s time in New Jersey, including describing the All-Star as “a better person than an athlete.”

He went on to play for Duke University, North Carolina, from where he was drafted for the Phoenix Suns, but was immediately traded to Chicago, where he has remained since 2004.

Deng returns to London every summer to see his family – his mother still lives in South Norwood – and to try to inspire young Britons through his Luol Deng Foundation, which he established in 2005.

Students at St Mary’s Catholic High School in Croydon, which Deng attended, benefit from free weekly coaching sessions organized by the LDF. The foundation aims to “increase participation in basketball while addressing issues of education, health, crime and social inclusion”.

The LDF is also active in Africa, where its mission is to provide adults and children with shelter and water.

Deng will continue to fight for the future of UK basketball on and off the pitch, but would an NBA championship for the British basketball ambassador change government and media views? Topcats coach Rogers doesn’t think so: “The British establishment favors elite sports – cricket and rugby, people who would be excited about the Bulls’ success don’t make the decisions.

He continued, “The media portray basketball as an American thing, which is not true, it is the most popular sport in the world after football.”

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