Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the second commissioner of the NBA and presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
The two-time All-Star forward recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. In the video, he tells young people, "Look around you, and reach out. Make peace among those who are fighting. Forgive one another and encourage others to forgive. Build trust with people who fear each other. You are young, and if you are wise, you will build bridges with people your age that will last a lifetime. It is not too late to start…but it is not too soon either.''
This is his latest contribution to a number of international causes, including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organisation that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The work in Africa focuses on building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities. Two courts, funded by Deng, will open in the summer of 2014 and include 12 hoops and locker rooms as well as basketball gear (shoes, jerseys, equipment). Plans are also in the works to increase the support of schools and renovate and build schools in South Sudan.
The programme in the United Kingdom, where Deng grew up, focuses on providing opportunities for participation in basketball camps, clinics and events for all sections of the community. The primary goals are to increase participation in grassroots development, provide advice and support for children to pursue the sport at an elite level, and increase opportunities for participation among young women.
In the US, Deng’s work has been focused primarily on the communities in which he has played, Chicago and Cleveland. He has funded Thanksgiving and holiday events that provide meals and toys to the under-served and has also served as a mentor to the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” He is also an avid supporter of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders programme and has participated in PSA’s to raise awareness for World Malaria Day.
"The breadth and depth of Luol Deng's community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,'' PBWA President Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said. "But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.''
The PBWA comprises approximately 175 writers for newspapers, Internet services and magazines, who cover the NBA on a regular basis. Other candidates nominated by PBWA members this year were Miami's Ray Allen, San Antonio's Matt Bonner, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Toronto's Amir Johnson, Atlanta's Kyle Korver, Portland's Damian Lillard, Minnesota's Kevin Love, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Nash, Chicago's Joakim Noah and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul.
ALL-TIME NBA J. WALTER KENNEDY CITIZENSHIP AWARD WINNERS
1974-75 - Wes Unseld, Washington
1975-76 - Slick Watts, Seattle
1976-77 - Dave Bing, Washington
1977-78 - Bob Lanier, Detroit
1978-79 - Calvin Murphy, Houston
1979-80 - Austin Carr, Cleveland
1980-81 - Mike Glenn, New York
1981-82 - Kent Benson, Detroit
1982-83 - Julius Erving, Philadelphia
1983-84 - Frank Layden, Utah
1984-85 - Dan Issel, Denver
1985-86 - Michael Cooper, L.A. Lakers, Rory Sparrow, New York
1986-87 - Isiah Thomas, Detroit
1987-88 - Alex English, Denver
1988-89 - Thurl Bailey, Utah
1989-90 - Doc Rivers, Atlanta
1990-91 - Kevin Johnson, Phoenix
1991-92 - Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
1992-93 - Terry Porter, Portland
1993-94 - Joe Dumars, Detroit
1994-95 - Joe O’Toole, Atlanta
1995-96 - Chris Dudley, Portland
1996-97 - P.J. Brown, Miami
1997-98 - Steve Smith, Atlanta
1998-99 - Brian Grant, Portland
1999-00 - Vlade Divac, Sacramento
2000-01 - Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia
2001-02 - Alonzo Mourning, Miami
2002-03 - David Robinson, San Antonio
2003-04 - Reggie Miller, Indiana
2004-05 - Eric Snow, Cleveland
2005-06 - Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
2006-07 - Steve Nash, Phoenix
2007-08 - Chauncey Billups, Detroit
2008-09 - Dikembe Mutombo, Houston
2009-10 - Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia
2010-11 - Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers
2011-12 - Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
2012-13 - Kenneth Faried, Denver
2013-14 - Luol Deng, Cleveland