Former Heat Star on the Brink of Major International Achievement

Goran Dragic and Luol Deng

Getty Luol Deng #9 of the Miami Heat reacts after hitting a three-point basket against the Atlanta Hawks with Goran Dragic #7 at Philips Arena on February 19, 2016

In 2014, Luol Deng signed a two-year $20 million deal with the Miami Heat. The two-time All-Star joined the Heat after the departure of LeBron James back to Cleveland. Deng was sought after by a number of teams at the time but chose Miami and was a key contributor in their 2015-16 campaign that saw them finish in third place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Deng left the Heat in 2016 after being offered a four-year $72 million deal by the Los Angeles Lakers and played in L.A. and for the Minnesota Timberwolves before retiring from the NBA. 

Now in his post-playing career, Deng continues to work around basketball and serves as the president of the Republic of South Sudan Basketball Federation while also being on the team’s coaching staff. South Sudan is currently one win away from qualifying for its first appearance in the FIBA World Cup in 2023. To get there, the team will need to win one of its next against other African countries from Feb. 24-Feb. 26, 2023, in Egypt to qualify for the tournament. Qualifying for the World Cup is hopefully just a start for the war-ridden African nation, in the World Cup, the team could earn a bid to its first-ever Olympic berth as well. 

Luol Deng on Possibly Qualifying for World Cup

Deng was born in Wao, Sudan (Now South Sudan) in 1985 and lived there until his family moved to Egypt to escape the second Sudanese Civil War, where they lived until being granted political asylum in London, England. Deng played on Great Britain National basketball team, and in 2012 represented Great Britain at the opening ceremony of the London Olympic games. There he pondered what it would mean for his birth nation to play on that kind of stage. 

Now, Deng has helped pave the way for the South Sudan National basketball team to earn an invite to the next Olympic games, and he talked to Marc J. Spears about what that would mean to him in a recent feature for Andscape

“It is going to be very emotional,” Deng said of qualifying for the World Cup. “And what’s so great about it, I always knew that we are capable of doing it. But seeing it and making it happen, honestly, it’s something that will never be taken away if we make it. And also, it gives us a great opportunity to have a chance to make it to the Olympics because out of the five teams that go from Africa, the team with the best record in the World Cup automatically goes to the Olympics and then the other four teams will play out the last spot because two teams will go to the Olympics.

“So, for us, there’s a chance to go to the World Cup, there’s a chance to have the best African team record and then there’s a chance to play. So it gives us three chances really to make it to the Olympics. I want to make it the Olympics and have our South Sudan flag at the opening ceremony like I did with the Great Britain team,” Deng told Spears, as featured on Andscape. 

Luol Deng on his Connection to South Sudan

Deng continued with Spears in the feature for Andscape and talked about how deep his roots are in South Sudan. 

“My grandfather was the chief of my village,” Deng said. “He founded the village that we are from. My dad became the chief and my older brother has the right to be chief. We also have so many relatives in Sudan. My dad was very close with John Garang [a revolutionary who he led the Sudan’s People Liberation Army]. And when the revolution started, my dad was part of it. So, my dad’s whole life, [he] dedicated it to South Sudan and then helping South Sudan gain into the government and fighting for the rights of South Sudanese.

“And for me, I have family and friends that are still in South Sudan. So, when I say that I’m very involved in South Sudan, it’s not just that I’m from South Sudan. I’m not far from the individuals that had a lot to do with South Sudan becoming what it is today,” Deng told Spears. 

Read the full feature on Deng and South Sudan’s journey towards the World Cup and hopeful olympic birth on Andscape as written by Marc J. Spears.

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