Luol Deng: Saving British Basketball

If the British team is going to be any good when London hosts the Olympics in 2012, then Deng will be a big part of the reason why. James Munro reports for the BBC:

Last season he was the National Basketball Association's Sportsman of the Year, and is poised to sign a new four-year contract, which would put him above Premier League stars such as Wayne Rooney and John Terry in terms of earnings.

But for £70 a day, Deng has chosen to play for Britain, a country which, in its one previous Olympic basketball tournament -- also in London, in 1948 -- lost all three games.

The burning question is -- why?

Partly as a way of saying "thank you" to a country which granted his family political asylum after his father, a government minister in Sudan, was jailed in a coup.

And partly because this is where he learnt to play the game, with the Brixton Topcats.

After that he won a basketball scholarship to the United States and never looked back - but as a result he never got a British passport either.

This is where British Basketball comes in.

Their coach, an energetic American, Chris Finch, has very clear views on how Britain can build a world class team.

The only way to do it by 2012, he reckons, is to encourage NBA stars with British links to sign up.

And so with the help of a letter to the Home Office from Lord Coe, Deng's passport was granted last year.

Pops Mensah Bonsu of the Dallas Mavericks is also on board, and Kelenna Azubuike of the Golden State Warriors is waiting for his passport to go through.