- National Teams
GB and Cleveland Cavaliers star Luol Deng has been voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the second commissioner of the NBA and presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
It adds to a long list of personal awards and recognition Deng has received for his contributions away from his basketball skils, including the Chicago Bulls Charles Lubin Award in October 2006, NBA’s Community Assist Award in April 2007 and the 2006-07 NBA Sportsmanship Award.
“It’s one of those things when I talk to my parents about it, they’ll be very proud,” said Deng to ESPN. “I don’t have any kids, but it’s one of those things where, when you have a kid and your kid calls home and tells the parents what award he won, they’ll be proud that they’ve done a good job.
“It’s all about helping other people and just doing what makes you happy in life.”
The two-time All-Star forward 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.”
This is his latest contribution to a number of international causes, including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organisation that 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.
The program here in the UK focuses on providing opportunities for participation in basketball camps, clinics and events for all sections of the community, including the recent announcement of his own basketball academy in Brixton, and a DENG TOP 50 invite-only camp this summer. The primary goals are to increase participation in grassroots development, provide advice and support for children to pursue the sport at an elite level, and increase opportunities for participation among young women.
In the U.S., Deng’s work has been focused primarily on the communities in which he has played, Chicago and Cleveland. He 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.” He is also an avid supporter of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program and has participated in PSA’s to raise awareness for World Malaria Day.
“It’s well-deserved,” said Cavs’ Coach Mike Brown after practice on Tuesday. “From what he’s come from and his life experience is off the charts. He told me about it and I was touched. To see where he is now, and for him to know my job is not done, I was one of the fortunate ones. Because of where I am, I have a platform to help bring awareness for others.
“It’s a remarkable thing. I don’t know how he does it. You applaud him. Obviously, you applaud his parents for raising him the way they did. It’s an amazing story. I would be surprised if his life story doesn’t turn into a Hollywood movie deal someday. It’s that special.”
“The breadth and depth of Luol Deng’s community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,” PBWA President Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said. “But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.”
The PBWA comprises approximately 175 writers for newspapers, Internet services and magazines, who cover the NBA on a regular basis. Other candidates nominated by PBWA members this year 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.
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