ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng wore a black shirt emblazoned with an outline of Africa on it before being introduced at the All-Star Game on Sunday night. Deng, who is originally from the South Sudan and was making his first All-Star appearance, said he decided to wear the shirt in order to inspire young kids from his native land.
"I wouldn't do something that's negative," Deng said. "I wouldn't do that at all. If you look at the T-shirt, it's not of anything. I'm not advertising anything. I just felt like being where I'm from and where I came from, it's something that I always wanted to see as a kid. Now that I'm I here I had a chance (to do that). I'm sure there's a kid out there, or a lot of kids, who really enjoyed it and made them happy to see that."
When Deng's name was announced, he stood on a platform with the rest of the Eastern Conference reserves and held the shirt up off his chest proudly. It was a decision he said he had been thinking about for a while.
"It's a lot," Deng said of representing Africa. "I appreciate the fact that I'm in the position that I'm in to do so. I just felt like there's only been (Hakeem) Olajuwon and Dikembe (Mutombo) and both were big men. Being a perimeter player (from Africa), it hasn't happened before. And I just felt like I didn't want the kids to just see it and just go by. I just wanted them to remember where I came from and get something out of it."
Deng said he wasn't sure if he would be fined for the gesture, but he didn't seem to care.
"I really don't know," he said. "If I get fined, I'm OK. To me, what I did is worth it for me."
Even though Deng only played six minutes on Sunday after falling on his injured left wrist late in the first quarter, he seemed to enjoy almost every part of the All-Star experience. He enjoyed celebrating the occasion with his friends and family, some of whom made the trip with him.
"For me to be selected meant a lot more to me," he said. "Being selected and recognized as an All-Star meant a lot more to me than what I was going to show or do tonight on the floor."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.