'Dear Prime Minister, Help Basketball'

29.01.2013

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

9. Luol Deng (Great Britain)
Luol Deng is disappointed with the decision of David Cameron's Government to slash funding for basketball

The office of British Prime Minister David Cameron must be receiving hundreds of letters from concerned citizens every single day.

It is safe to assume though that players who lead the NBA in minutes played (39.8 on average) and are gearing up for their second consecutive All Star Game do not get in touch that often.

Great Britain international Luol Deng did just that only three days after being selected on the East roster for the NBA's showcase game, to ask Cameron to help revert the decision by UK Sport to slash state funding to the basketball federation.

The opening paragraph of his letter makes clear from the outset that the national team, as well as the future of basketball in the United Kingdom, are always on the mind of the Chicago Bulls small forward.

Deng opens by expressing his confusion and frustration at hearing the news of the funding cut and says his reaction was to try and understand by what means he could help to change the decision.

"The honour and pride I've felt playing for Team GB over the last five years is something words can't really explain," he goes on to write.

"We all heard about the 'legacy' that London 2012 was going to bring to sport in the UK and I refuse to sit back and let that legacy be completely demolished for basketball.

"I, along with other people involved in the game, have put too much in and care too greatly to let this happen."

But the strictly competitive aspect of basketball is not the only preoccupation for Deng.

He makes a reference to his own family background early in the letter, to put his plea into context. Deng was born in Sudan and moved to South London with his family at a young age.

In that area of the British capital, youth crime is not infrequent and he has first-hand experience of the positive influence that basketball programs have had on a social level in metropolitan areas with underprivileged youngsters.

"The sport of basketball is a pathway, a pathway that teaches so many valuable lessons on and off the court," Deng writes in his letter.

"How are we supposed to motivate these kids to carry along their journey when there's now nothing at the end? No Team GB, no Olympic dream, no goal."

"I wanted you to hear first hand from someone who came through the grass roots basketball system and knows what talent the UK has to offer in the sport of basketball," the Bulls star writes in conclusion.

British Basketball is meeting with UK sport on Wednesday in an effort to convince the funding agency to reconsider their decision.

They are also considering lodging a formal appeal to the Sport Dispute Resolution Panel.

"Luol's support for us is massively important," said British Basketball's British Basketball's Roger Moreland.

"He recognises the value of funding, not just for the elite levels of sport but to carry on investing in grass roots and creating a route for young people to realise their dreams."


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