Born: April 16, 1985
Luol Ajou Deng was born April 16, 1985 in what is now South Sudan. His father, Aldo, was a member of the Sudanese parliament. Members of the Dinka tribe involved in the region’s civil war, the Dengs fled to Egpyt when Luol was a teenager. There he and his brother met Manuto Bol, who taught the tall, coordinated boys how to play basketball. After gaining asylum in England, Luol took up soccer. But basketball was his first love and, at 13, he averaged 40 points a game for the country’s U15 squad competing in the European Junior qualifying tournament. In the tournament itself, Luol averaged over 30 points a game and was named MVP of the competition.
In 1999, Luol came to the U.S. and enrolled at Blair Academy in Warren County. He grew to 6–9 and developed the agility and scoring touch of a classic small forward. Teammate Charlie Villanueva, a Queens import, co-captained the team. Both would go on to star in the NBA. By his senior season in 2002–03, Luol was rated the #2 prep player in the nation, behind LeBron James.
Luol accepted a scholarship from Duke University. He played one year for the Blue Devils and helped them reach the Final Four. He averaged 15 points a game and led ACC freshmen in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage. Duke went 31–6, bowing out in the national semifinal against UConn 79–78.
Luol was considered pro-ready after his year in the ACC and was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Suns had already worked out a trade with the Chicago Bulls, sending Luol—the #7 overall pick—for guard Nate Robinson and Iowa State power forward Jackson Vroman. Luol averaged 11.7 point per game as a rookie. He became an impact player in his third NBA campaign, averaging 18.8 points and playing effective defense against bigger, more experienced opponents, studying their moves on film before games. He was also recognized for his sportsmanship with several league awards.
Despite injuries over the next few years, Luol became a valuable piece in the championship puzzle for the Bulls, who signed him to a generous contract extension. He continued to improve as a rebounder and also shot the occasional three-pointer with great confidence and accuracy. In 2011–12, despite playing the year with an injured wrist, Luol made his first All-Star Game. He and Derrick Rose played in the game, marking the first time since the Jordan-Pippen era that Chicago had two All-Stars in the same season. Luol was an All-Star again in 2012–13.
Luol was the team’s top scorer in 2013–14, but with free agency on the horizon the Bulls traded him to the Cavaliers. He was leading the club in scoring at he time and ranked as Chicago’s #4 all-time scorer. After finishing the year with the Cavs, he signed to play with the Miami Heat. He averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds a