Luol Deng is retiring from the NBA after 15 seasons in the league.
The veteran spent the first nine seasons and change of his career with the Chicago Bulls, where he was named to two All-Star teams. He signed a one-day contract with the Bulls in order to retire with the team he played for most of his career. The Bulls released a statement on Thursday to commemorate Deng's career.
"From the moment we made Luol Deng the seventh overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls became a better team," said Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson. "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."
Deng was traded by the Bulls in 2014 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He became a free agent that summer and landed with the Miami Heat, where he replaced LeBron James, who took his place in Cleveland. After a two-year stint in Miami, he landed an enormous four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that was eventually waived using the stretch provision. His final season in the league came with the Minnesota Timberwolves, originally led by his former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Deng was one of the last remaining players from the 2004 NBA Draft still in the league. With a week to go before the season, only Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard remain on NBA rosters from that class, though players like Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris could conceivably land somewhere during the year.
The defensive-minded Deng was a stalwart on Thibodeau's contending Bulls teams earlier this decade. He never achieved the stardom that Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler managed to attain, but he was arguably just as important to those teams because of his durability. Deng led the NBA in minutes per game during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, and very nearly did so on a number of other occasions.
Now Deng retires as a fan-favorite in Chicago from that era, which is still remembered fondly. He was the quintessential Bull of the Thibodeau era, and one of the more underrated players in recent league history.