An open letter to Luol Deng, who was traded Tuesday to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done as a Chicago Bull and all you’ve done as a citizen of Chicago period. In fact, thank you for all you’ve done as a human being living in the world.
Sure, you have done a lot of things in your history with the team, and certainly we as fans appreciate those things. You are fifth all-time in games played for the team, fourth in minutes, fourth in points, eighth in rebounds, fifth in steals, 10th in blocks and sixth in win shares.
Since you’ve become a Bull, the team has made the playoffs eight times in nine seasons after failing to win more than 30 games even one time in the six years prior to your arrival. You were an essential component to three teams that made it to the conference semifinals and one to the conference finals.
You had game-winners four times, including this tip-in against the Toronto Raptors.
One season later, you did the same thing to them again with this pull-up shot.
You hit this three against the Miami Heat.
And this layup against the Atlanta Hawks.
You saved this game with a steal against Kobe Bryant.
You had your share of small victories over LeBron James, such as when you dunked on him.
Or when you broke his ankles.
Then, there was the time you scored 40 on the Portland Trail Blazers.
All those were great things you did, but what we’re going to miss about you isn’t all that.
What we’re going to miss about you is who you are.
Your leadership, your poise, your resolve to win, your fortitude, your presence, your willingness to absorb pressure and your willingness to play through pain are the things which had the greater impact on the Bulls.
No one does more that doesn’t show up in box scores.
Those things were the essence of the Bulls during your tenure in Chicago, and you had so much to do with that.
That’s why the best on-court memory of you will always be from the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers in 2011. With the game in doubt, you rallied the United Center and the team, igniting the comeback.
So apt that when John Paxson summed you up in four words, he described you as a “great player and gentleman.” After all, with you there’s more than what you’ve done; there’s who you are.
You are a gentleman. And for so many players, if they were to be summarized in four words, would that be one of the words we’d use?
The word, when used correctly, is full of meaning. It contains so much nuance, with the concepts of chivalry, nobility, kindness and generosity all woven together and tied into that one impactful word—and you have exemplified all those characteristics in your time as a Bull.
It’s so much more than what you did for the team; it’s what you did for the city and for the world. You know your work, as Sam Smith of Bulls.com points out,
Deng, a refugee from Sudan who grew up in England, played for the Great Britain Olympic basketball team and has been the Bulls regular representative in the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program that brings the game around the world and provides international help. Deng with his foundation travels the world in the summer doing clinics and charitable work. Even in recent days in Chicago, he was awarding fans prizes for contributions to his work with Chicago food pantries. No one among the Bulls has ever been a more community and worldwide involved citizen. He’s been honored by the United Nations, the league’s community assist award and the Bulls Lubin award for community service.
The thing that stands out among it all is that you don’t just do charitable things; you encourage others to do the same, such as in your work with food pantries.
A good man does charitable work. A gentleman encourages others to do the same.
A good man does good things. A gentleman inspires others to do good things.
You sir, are a gentleman, and you have inspired us.
Perhaps, that’s why it’s easier to find peace with you leaving. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland can benefit from what you do and from who you are.
As your fans, we thank you for all you’ve done and wish you nothing but the best for all you will do in the future, whether that means remaining in Cleveland or going somewhere else. You’ve earned nothing but the best for yourself.
In our hearts, and hopefully someday from the rafters, No. 9 will always be reserved for you. Thank you for all you did and for all you are.
The Fans of the Chicago Bulls
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