Luol Deng experienced plenty of highs and lows throughout his nine-plus seasons with the Bulls.
But his love for the organization that acquired him in a 2004 draft-day trade never wavered, even after it traded him to the Cavaliers in January 2014 in a move to exit the luxury tax.
That's why Deng signed a ceremonial, one-day contract Thursday so that he could retire as a Bull.
"From the moment we made Luol Deng the seventh overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls became a better team," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. "Luol carried himself with first-class professionalism and leadership, helping lead his Bulls team to eight playoff appearances during his time in Chicago. We'll always remember his All-Star career and the fierce competitiveness he brought to both ends of the floor every night."
The Bulls said they plan to honor Deng at a game later this season.
"We're very fortunate and humbled that Luol has chosen to retire as a Chicago Bull," Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf said. "He was a role model on and off the court during his nine-plus years in Chicago, and he gave everything he had to help us win. I want to thank Luol for not only what he accomplished on the court for the team, but also for the leadership he demonstrated through his philanthropic efforts."
Deng, a two-time All-Star, is all over the franchise leaderboard. He's tied for fourth by playing in parts of 10 seasons with the Bulls. He's sixth in games played, fifth in minutes, fourth in points, fifth in field goals, ninth in rebounds, fifth in steals, seventh in 3-pointers and eighth in free throws.
But Deng's impact with the Bulls moved past numbers. When he arrived with Ben Gordon, one season after the Bulls drafted Kirk Hinrich, Deng helped pull the Bulls from their post-dynasty funk and transform them into a perennial playoff team. He chose to play through a torn wrist ligament so that he could represent his adopted homeland of Great Britain at the 2014 Summer Olympics.
He became a two-time All-Star as Tom Thibodeau's indispensable, two-way forward, consistently ranking near the top of the NBA in minutes played. And his community service through his Luol Deng Foundation featured Chicago and global reach.
"He was a great teammate on the court," Hinrich said by phone in a rare interview. "But I look back and think about all the things he did in the community. As time goes on and you mature, you realize how important that was. He had a huge impact on and off the floor.
"It's cool he was able to retire as a Bull. That's where myself and him and BG (Ben Gordon) and Noce (Andres Nocioni) grew up as players together and had some fun times."
The day after the trade to the Cavaliers, Deng talked to this reporter at length while standing inside the Cavaliers practice facility.
"I had an opportunity to play for a great organization. I've been very lucky to play 10 years for the only team that I ever knew as a kid," Deng said that January 2014 day. "I only knew Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls when I was 7 years old and in Egypt. For me to be the fourth-leading scorer on that team, did I ever think a refugee kid in Egypt would even play for the Bulls? There's a lot of amazing things that have happened."
2-time All-Star Luol Deng signs 1-day contract to retire as a Bull originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago