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Luol Deng: Interview with an Inspirational Athlete

Luol DengBeing a British Basketball fan, Luol Deng is one of my favourite athletes. Recently I had the chance to interview him and it’s safe to say his journey to the NBA has been a remarkable one.

Deng’s journey to the NBA couldn’t have started further from the league.  The Great Britain and Chicago Bulls forward was born in Sudan and is the eighth of nine children. At the age of 5 his family moved to Egypt and that’s where he started to play basketball with his brothers.  Deng explained, “My older brothers played so they got me involved by teaching me the rules and how to dribble and shoot. We all really picked the sport up quite quickly.”

Luol Deng’s Road To The NBA

His family moved to London in 1994 where he really started to develop as a basketball player under the tutelage of the legendary British coach Jimmy Rogers. As he continued to improve as a basketball player, Deng was offered a scholarship to the Blair Academy in New Jersey and later went on to receive offers from over 100 colleges, choosing to attend Duke.

His coaches have had a big influence on him throughout his career; “I have had some amazing coaches with Jimmy Rogers at Brixton to Coach K at Duke and Coach Montagna from my High School, who have all played a huge part in my playing career. I would say all of these guys have made a huge influence in their own way in different stages of my life.”

However, Deng sees his Dad as his biggest inspiration in life; “My Dad is a huge inspiration to me as he had to make so many sacrifices for us in order to keep us safe. He made a great decision which really paid off for the whole family.”

Deng spent just one year at Duke, entering the NBA draft in 2004, aged just 19. He was drafted 7th overall and this remains the proudest moment of his career. “It was a dream of mine from a young age and was unreal to be there with my family on draft night,” he recalled.

After being drafted by the Phoenix Suns, he was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls and has gone on to become one of the franchise’s best and most consistent players.

Inspiration On And Off The Court

Any athlete will almost definitely encounter difficult times on their rise to the top and Deng believes his positive attitude and the support of his family kept him going through the harder times. “We all face difficulties in life. I had to face many but it’s what you have to do if you want to reach a high goal. I have a great family who support one another and I have a positive attitude which my parents instilled into all of us. I would say staying positive has gotten me through many hard times.”

Away from the court, Deng does a lot of work in the community and set up the Luol Deng Foundation to help benefit the lives and places that have touched him and his family and to give back to the places that have contributed and played a huge role into his life’s journey and success.

The Luol Deng Foundation provides opportunities for participation in basketball for all sections of the community by running events, camps and courses, and during our interview the NBA star shared words of advice for any young players that want to make it in the game:

“Work hard and be true to the sport. So many people say they put the work in but it is easy to say rather than do it. You have to love the sport and have passion to drive you on to put the hours in.”

Deng is a key figure in the Brixton, the area of London spent his early teenage years in and his status in the community was highlighted earlier this year when he was unveiled as one of four ‘Brixton heroes’ to appear on new edition Brixton pound notes (a currency used by independent local shops and traders with the Brixton community).

“I am honoured to be featured on the new Brixton Pound notes,” he said. “I grew up in Brixton as a young teenager playing basketball for the Brixton Topcats which marked the beginning of my career. So it is with great pleasure that I am helping to support the local community that played a vital part in getting where I am today.”

Basketball in Great Britain has been on the up over recent years and when asked about his thoughts on the future of basketball in Great Britain, he replied:

“I really don’t know, but I want the future to improve and be more stable! I hope that having the sport on a huge platform like 2012 will bring a positive step to the sport. Basketball is played by so many people in the UK and I hope that 2012 can encourage more to get involved and maybe more importantly keep current players interested to continue to play.”

I hope you enjoyed the interview and learned something new about Luol Deng. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Read the full interview here.

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