PROFILE: Luol Deng, Brixton’s basketball megastar

HERO: Luol Deng in action for team GB against Portugal

Luol Deng – Chicago All Star, Obama’s favourite sportsman…and a Brixton boy.

Luol Deng is recognised everywhere he goes in Chicago – he plays on the hallowed NBA courts as an All Star for the Chicago Bulls. But as a young boy here in Brixton, he was trained by the legendary Jimmy Rogers at the Brixton Recreation Centre court.

Deng was born the eighth out of nine children into the Dinka tribe of southern Sudan. In the early 1990s, his family fled from Sudan to Egypt and then, five years later, to south London. Aged ten, dislocated and barely able to speak English, he followed his siblings Ajou and Arek to the basketball training sessions at Brixton. Here, south London youth were and still are supported, encouraged and drilled in basketball skills.

Four years later, he was offered a scholarship at Blair Academy in New Jersey. And by the age of 19, he had signed with the Chicago Bulls.

Deng’s current contract at the Bulls is worth a stonking $71million, which is why it was no surprise that many Chicagoans protested loudly when Deng decided to play for Team GB in the Olympics despite a wrist injury that meant he should have been resting up. Deng’s response? “What people don’t understand,” he said in May, “when we were in Egypt, we were refugees. My family and I were homeless. For five years, out of all of the countries in the world that my father was contacting, the only one that took us in was England. So how do I not participate [in the Olympics]? If I don’t play for them, knowing that I had the opportunity to, explain to me, how am I supposed to live with that for the rest of my life?”