Early life and education
Deng was born in Wau, Sudan (now South Sudan) and is a member of the Dinka ethnic group. When he was young, his father Aldo, a member of the Sudanese parliament, moved the family to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Egypt, they met former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka, who taught Deng's older brother, Ajou Deng, how to play basketball while also serving as a mentor for Luol himself. When they were granted political asylum, his family emigrated to Brixton, South London.
Deng was educated at St. Mary's Roman Catholic High School, a voluntary aided state comprehensive school in Croydon in South London. He developed an interest in association football, admiring Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle United, but also continued to play basketball, and was invited to join England's 15-and-under team in that sport. During this time, he began his career at Brixton Basketball Club. He represented Croydon at the London Youth Games, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2009. At the age of 13, he played for England's squad in the European Junior Men's Qualifying Tournament, averaging 40 points and 14 rebounds. He was named the MVP of the tournament. Next, he led England to the finals of the European Junior National Tournament, where he averaged 34 points and earned another MVP award.
At the age of 14, Luol moved to the United States to play basketball at Blair Academy in New Jersey, where one of his teammates was future NBA player Charlie Villanueva. Deng was also named a Tri-Captain at Blair along with Villanueva. During his senior year, Deng was considered the second most promising high school senior in America after LeBron James. He was named First Team All-America by Parade Magazine and USA Today, and was selected to play in the McDonald's High School All-America game, but could not play due to a foot injury. After graduation, he decided to attend Duke University. In one season at Duke, he appeared in 37 games and made 32 starts. He averaged 30.1 minutes and scored 15.1 points per game en route to a berth in the 2004 Final Four. He is only the 10th freshman in ACC history to lead all rookies in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage.
After one year at Duke, Deng entered the 2004 NBA Draft. He was picked seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns, but was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls by prior agreement. Deng suffered a season-ending wrist injury late in his rookie season, but still made the NBA All-Rookie First Team to help the resurgent Bulls return to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Deng played in 61 games and averaged 11.7 points per game. On February 8, Deng recorded his first double-double vs. the Dallas Mavericks
In his second season, he posted strong performances throughout March and April to help the Bulls earn their second consecutive playoff berth. His offensive statistics improved in his sophomore season, increasing his scoring to 14.3 points per game, and increasing his rebounding to 6.6 per game, up from a 5.3 average his rookie season. Deng had four straight double-double performances from February 28 to March 5, with at least ten points and rebounds in each game. In the playoffs, the Bulls faced off against the Miami Heat in a best of 7 game series. Deng came off the bench in all six games, averaging ten points per game.
For the 2006–07 season, Deng was the only Bull to start all 82 regular season games. All of his numbers continued to improve, and he led the team in minutes played (37.5) and field goal percentage (.517), while playing a strong second scoring option to Ben Gordon, with a marked improvement to 18.8 points per game. Deng also notably rarely committed fouls on defense (2.00 per game), despite the minutes he played and frequently being outsized in match ups against power forwards such as Kevin Garnett.
On December 27, 2006, Deng was driving in the lane when Miami Heat player James Posey grabbed him, causing concern that Deng may have re-injured his wrist. Posey earned a flagrant foul, was ejected and suspended for one game. Deng scored 32 points against the Cavaliers just three nights later, resolving concern that the wrist would be re-injured. On March 26, 2007 Deng posted a new career-high 38 points to lead the Bulls to a home victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. Deng converted 18 of his 25 shots from the field.
Deng has won three major sportsmanship awards. On May 3, 2007, Deng won the NBA's sportsmanship award in a vote by players. The award honors the player who best exemplifies ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity on the court. For that award, the league donated $25,000 on his behalf to Pacific Garden Mission, the oldest continuously operating rescue mission in the country. Deng also won the 2006–2007 Golden Icon Award for Best Sports Role Model. The awards are presented by the Travolta entertainment family. Most recently, he won the 2008 UN Refugee Agency's Humanitarian of the Year Award as part of the UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign to bring education and sports to millions of displaced children.
Near the beginning of the season, the Bulls started negotiating a contract extension for Deng. Negotiations were mostly handled by Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. The team offered Deng a five-year extension for $57.5 million. However, Deng decided to reject the deal and wait until the season ended to continue negotiations.
In the 2007–08 season, Luol played in sixty-three games, missing 19 mostly because of left Achilles tendinitis.Despite injuries, Deng still averaged 17.0 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. He had his best game against the Milwaukee Bucks when he scored 32 points in a 151–135 victory. The Bulls missed the playoffs in the 2007–08 season for the first time since 2004.
Before the season started, Deng agreed to a contract extension for six years and $71 million. The agreement was announced by Bulls general manager, John Paxson. Paxson said in a statement "Signing Luol has always been a priority for this organization and we have always felt that he was a big part of our future. We are very happy that Luol will now be with us long term as we continue to grow as an organization."
Due to injury, Deng only played in 48 games. During the regular season Luol's scoring dropped to 14.1 points per game and his rebounding dropped to 6.0 per game. The Bulls made the playoffs, but Luol missed the entire playoffs due to injury.
Deng scored 27 points twice during the season, his season-high. Deng played in a total of 70 games during the 2009–10 season, also increasing his scoring and rebounding to 17.6 and 7.3 respectively, helping the Bulls make the playoffs again. He missed 11 straight games at the end of March because of a sprained right calf.
During the first-round of the playoffs, Deng averaged 18.8 points per game along with 5.0 rebounds per game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He scored 26 points in the final game, but couldn't prevent the Bulls being eliminated by the Cavs.
On November 1, 2010, Deng scored a new career-high 40 points, hitting 14 of his 19 shots, along with 9 of 11 free throws, against the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring a point a minute. On February 24, 2011, Deng scored 20 points, 10 rebounds, and hit the game winning 3-point shot with 16 seconds left on the clock in a game against the Miami Heat. Throughout the season, Deng significantly improved his 3-point shooting after coach Tom Thibodeau asked him to. In the past four seasons, Deng attempted 132 3-point shots, whereas this season he attempted 333, hitting 115 for a 34%.
Deng finished the season averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, being the third lead scorer for the Chicago Bulls behind Derrick Rose (25.0) and Carlos Boozer (17.5). This was also Deng's seventh season averaging double figures. During the first round of the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, Deng averaged 18.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, being the second leading scorer of the team behind Derrick Rose.
On March 31, 2011, Eric Bressman of Dime magazine called Deng "the most underrated player" writing he was "never the face of the franchise but always the backbone". Coach Thibodeau has consistently called Deng the "glue" that holds the Bulls together. "Luol's professional. He practices hard. He prepares well. He studies his opponent. He's great at executing offensively and defensively. He's helped this team get better every day," said Thibodeau.
Deng was the Bulls' second leading scorer during the playoffs. In the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, Deng was praised for his defense on LeBron James. However, the Miami Heat went on to eliminate the Bulls in five games. Deng averaged just under 43 minutes, 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during the playoffs.
2011–12 season: All-Star season
Deng injured his wrist during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Bobcats on January 21, 2012. Initially thought to be a minor injury, it was later revealed by an MRI that Deng tore the ligament in his left wrist. Deng decided to postpone surgery and play the rest of the season through the pain. He returned to the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 4, 2012, scoring 21 points with 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block.
On February 9, 2012, Deng was selected as a reserve for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game's Eastern Conference team, joining teammate Derrick Rose, who was voted in as a starter. This was the first time since 1997 (when both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen made the team) that the Chicago Bulls had two All-Stars in the All-Star Game.
Deng made a last instant buzzer-beating game winner on March 24, 2012, off a tip-in basket to lift the Bulls 102–101 in overtime versus the Toronto Raptors. At the end of the season, Deng was selected for the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|Led the league|