But he’s not the only player making history on the hardwood. On Thursday, Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng was named an Eastern Conference All-Star, becoming the first ever British player to earn the distinction.
Deng — who was born in Sudan, emigrated to South London and went to high school in New Jersey — is averaging 16 points and a career-best 7.3 rebounds per game. And his selection provides a big boost for Britain’s national basketball team with the 2012 London Olympics fast approaching.
Words can't describe how happy I am to make my first all star. Thanks to all my supporters especially the coaches who voted for me. #Honored— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) February 10, 2012
Deng joins teammate and reigning MVP Derrick Rose on the Eastern Conference roster, marking the first time the Bulls sent two representatives to the game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen made the team in 1997.
“He plays a great floor game. He moves without the ball. He makes the extra pass. And he has very good statistics, but you can’t measure his impact statistically,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, while campaigning for Deng. “I know what he brings. I know all the coaches and all his teammates appreciate everything that he does.”
Joining Deng on the Eastern Conference bench are Atlanta guard Joe Johnson, Boston forward Paul Pierce, New Jersey point guard Deron Williams, Miami forward Chris Bosh and first-time selections Roy Hibbert (Indiana) and Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia). The East’s starters were announced late last week and include Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
The West roster added three first-time selections as well, with Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, Memphis center Marc Gasol and Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Minnesota foward Kevin Love, point guard Steve Nash (Phoenix) and Tony Parker (San Antonio) and Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki — making his 11th straight appearance — round out the reserves.
“It was a tough road back to full health for me, but I am honored that the coaches thought enough of me to make me an All-Star,” said Nowitzki, whose 17.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game are his worst averages since 1999-2000. “It has been a privilege to represent the Mavericks organization over the last decade and I look forward to doing it again in Orlando.
Notable omissions from the game, which takes place on Feb. 26 in Orlando, included Boston’s Kevin Garnett, who saw his string of 14 consecutive selections snapped, and San Antonio center Tim Duncan, whose streak ended at 13.
Among the hopefuls who just missed out: Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (18.9 ppg, 5.3 apg), Memphis forward Rudy Gay (18.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Golden State guard Monta Ellis (22.2 ppg, 6.1 apg), New York center Amare Stoudemire (18.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Houston point guard Kyle Lowry (14.7 ppg, 7.6 apg).
Which player not selected most deserved to make it to Orlando?
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