One year after his retirement from the NBA, and six after his last game as a Bull, Luol Deng’s impact is still being felt in Chicago.
The NBPA announced Thursday that Deng and Bellwood, Ill. native Robert Covington will help spearhead a partnership with Own Our Own, an inner-city focused real estate fund, to enhance a West Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of the city.
“Having spent nine seasons with the Chicago Bulls, I have strong ties to the city and care about communities like the West Pullman,” Deng said in a statement. “This project is an opportunity for me to invest in a community I care about and help catalyze transformative change.”
The release said the program will involve rehabilitating a 143-unit property in the neighborhood — first through “enhanced safety measures, community gardens, art projects, and an outdoor playground,” and then by adapting community spaces to provide community resources, from libraries, to STEM facilities and more.
Deng, Covington, and fellow ex-NBAers Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Matt Barnes will all invest in the project.
Deng’s community work dates back well before his post-retirement days. In recent years, The Luol Deng Foundation has given back to South Sudan and London — Deng was born in what is now South Sudan and grew up in the United Kingdom — in myriad forms, from school construction projects to basketball development camps to emergency relief initiatives and beyond.
With the Bulls, he annually contributed hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to underserved families in Chicago, and hosted Toy Drives in 2006 and 2012.