Luol Deng has come full circle after signing and hanging it up with his maiden NBA team, the Chicago Bulls.
The South Sudanese-British player, who was drafted seventh overall by the Bulls in 2004, averaged 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 34.3 minutes per game over 15 seasons with Chicago, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
As one of the more important Bulls in the late 2000s and early 2010s alongside Derrick Rose, Luol was coach Tom Thibodeau's favorite workhorse, leading the league in minutes per game twice (2011-12, 2012-13) and being named an All-Star in both seasons.
"We're very fortunate and humbled that Luol has chosen to retire as a Chicago Bull," President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf was quoted on NBA.com. "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."
The 2006-07 Sportsmanship awardee and 2004-05 All-Rookie First Team and 2011-12 All-Defensive Second Team member will be honored by Chicago at a game this season.
Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson said, "From the moment we made Luol Deng the seventh overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls became a better team."
This isn't the first time an NBA player retired by inking a ceremonial contract with his franchise of choice. Just a couple of years ago, it was reported that Lamar Odom was in talks to do the same thing with the Lakers, where he became a two-time champion (2009, 2010) and 2011 Sixth Man of the Year.
The versatile forward, who fell into a coma in 2015, instead suited up for Philippine ball club Mighty Sports in Dubai, in between failed pro hoops comebacks via the CBA and BIG3.
Jason Maxiell didn't only eclipse Lamar in China and Ice Cube's league, he was also granted a ceremonial contract by Detroit, when he officially bid the game goodbye.
The undersized big's NBA resume (6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 19.1 mpg in eight seasons with the Pistons) pales in comparison to most of his frontcourt peers, but the front office reaching out to him about his retirement plan is proof that he has kept in close contact with the organization that selected him 26th overall in 2005.
"Once a Knick, Always a Knick."
This statement holds true for Amar'e Stoudemire, who got to finish his career in the Big Apple after signing his final contract with them, despite a disappointing end to his Knicks tenure due to injuries.
As the team's marquee free agent signing in 2010, he was instrumental in their first playoff appearance since 2004. Unfortunately, STAT's sixth All-Star and fourth All-NBA Second Team inclusion turned out to be his last, before health issues and Carmelo Anthony took over. He was eventually bought out after five seasons in NY.
He may not have had the farewell tour that he wanted, but the way Paul Pierce was able to return to and retiring with the franchise that he shouldn't have left in the first place was a fitting culmination to his almost two-decade NBA run.
The No. 10 pick of the 1998 draft spent his first 15 seasons with the Celtics, where he amassed 10 All-Star stints, multiple All-NBA campaigns, and one title in 2008 as Finals MVP, among other recognitions. It was strange to see Paul in another jersey once he played for the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and Los Angeles Clippers, where he reunited with his Boston coach Doc Rivers.
Say what you want about him as an analyst and his "Wheelchair Game," The Truth had a glorious farewell in his final match at The Garden.