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Luol Deng wins NBA Community Service honor
by Sam Smith
Posted on Apr 15
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The first award of the 2014 NBA awards season goes to former Bull Luol Deng.
Deng was named winner of the 2013-14 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. It is voted on by the 175 members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, similar to the media group that votes for the NBA post season awards. The honor goes to a player, coach or trainer with a team who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community.
The first winner in 1975 was Wes Unseld. Previous winners have included Dave Bing, Bob Lanier, Julius Erving, Dan Issel, Calvin Murphy, Isiah Thomas, Doc Rivers, Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson, Vlade Divac, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Nash, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Miller, Pau Gasol and Samuel Dalembert.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for any award, but this one is special because it represents who I am as a person and where I came from,” Deng said in a statement on his foundation web site. “What I’m most proud of is that my family can look back after my career is over and realize that I was able to make a difference on and off the basketball court. That is something that tells the true story as to who I am as a person, someone who cares about his community and wants to improve the lives of others.”
Deng through his Luol Deng Foundation uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The work in Africa focuses on building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities. Two courts, funded by Deng, will open in the summer of 2014 and include 12 hoops and locker rooms as well as basketball gear (shoes, jerseys, equipment). Plans are also in the works to increase the support of schools and renovate and build schools in South Sudan. Deng stands out among athletes for his personal commitment to be on site around the world in his various projects and has been a frequent participant in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program and has participated in public service announcements to raise awareness for World Malaria Day. Deng also has funded Thanksgiving and holiday events that provide meals and toys to the underserved and has also served as a mentor to the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
Deng, a native of South Sudan who emigrated to England, recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. In the video, he tells young people, “Look around you and reach out. Make peace among those who are fighting. Forgive one another and encourage others to forgive. Build trust with people who fear each other. You are young, and if you are wise, you will build bridges with people your age that will last a lifetime. It is not too late to start…but it is not too soon either.”
Deng officially won the award as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he was nominated and became a finalist while still with the Bulls as the award represents his community work during his NBA career. He was traded Jan. 7 after more than nine seasons with the Bulls, ranking in the top five in franchise history in seasons, minutes played, points scored, three-point shots, offensive rebounds and steals. Deng played 23 games for the Bulls this season and led the team in scoring at 19 per game.
“We want to congratulate Lu for being named winner of the 2013-14 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman. “Lu always has been a person who cared about the people and the community and the world around him and someone who devoted his time and efforts to make the world a better place. He is truly deserving of this great honor.”
Other finalists for the award named for the second commissioner of the NBA were Miami’s Ray Allen, San Antonio’s Matt Bonner, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Toronto’s Amir Johnson, Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Nash, Chicago’s Joakim Noah and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) April 15, 2014
— Nazr Mohammed (@NazrMohammed) April 15, 2014