It was just past midnight on Jan. 7, 2014. My twin sister and I were in the middle of watching The Spectacular Now when I decided to check Twitter on my phone. That was when I found out Luol Deng was no longer a Chicago Bull. It was sad to find out, but I realized that I would have rather found out the news before going to sleep as opposed to waking up to the news.
After that, I was a mess. I couldn’t even pay attention to the remainder of the movie, let alone go to sleep following it.
A few days earlier, I went out to lunch with my sister and our friend. Somehow, we came across the topic of what Bulls shirts we owned. After my friend mentioned her desire to get a Taj Gibson shirt, I mentioned how I had always wanted to get a Luol Deng shirt, but I just never did. However, we both acknowledged the fact that Deng shirts would be on sale soon enough. Little did we know it would come a lot sooner than we thought.
Deng’s departure was evident to Bulls fans, especially after the decision to walk following this season. The chance he would remain a Bull just seemed too unlikely with the kind of money other teams could offer. The trade just happened so suddenly though. It hurt, but that’s what nearly ten years will do. As a fan, it’s difficult to not get attached to a sports team and the players. There are some athletes, though, that make it even more difficult. Deng was one of them.
There are the obvious details about Deng, like how he’s the fourth all-time leading scorer for the Bulls franchise and how he’s in the top ten in other various categories, but what about his sacrifice to basketball? Two years ago, Deng made the decision to play through his left wrist injury. That decision shows the devotion he had to not only his team, but to the game. His commitment didn’t stop there though.
After going through an entire NBA season, as well as a disappointing playoff series, Deng made a selfless act. He overlooked surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist just to honor Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics. Realistically speaking, the men’s basketball team for Great Britain didn’t have much of a chance to contend for a medal, but Deng played for them to honor the country that provided him and his family a place to live.
As a Bull, Deng proved his greatness as both a basketball player and a person. Combine that with the time length of his stint in Chicago, and it’s difficult to look at this trade as strictly business. Yes, the NBA is a business, and things are not going to always be ideal, if ever. However, it’s too much to ignore the sentimentality of it all, and even the Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson acknowledged it.
“Look, it’s not realistic to ask Tom (Thibodeau) or his staff to be happy about taking a player of Lu’s caliber off your team,” Paxson said. “(General manager Gar Forman) and I put ourselves in Tom’s shoes a lot, every day really. We know what he’s facing. We’re not sitting up here saying we’re happy about it. It’s hard.”
Joakim Noah, in particular, took it harder than others.
Noah declined comment.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 7, 2014
Noah declined comment again postgame. Very rare move for him.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 8, 2014
Although, the relationship Noah has with Deng is different than those of Bulls fans, some took it just as hard and cried about it. Other fans were simply just sad about it. There were those who completely realized the business aspect of it and left it at that. Some questioned, “Just how valuable are three draft picks really?”
Everyone is different, and therefore reacted differently, but this isn’t ideal for anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how life is sometimes. Deng has to move on to the Cavaliers for the time being and doesn’t get to retire as a Bull. Tom Thibodeau no longer gets to be Deng’s coach. His teammates have lost a quality leader. Chicago has lost a great player and an even better person.
It’ll be tough to get over, and some will find it tougher than others, but within all of the sorrow, what many of us fail to realize is how the Bulls and their fans have been fortunate enough to have had someone as special as Deng to miss. Not every team or fan will have that opportunity, but Chicago does.