To know Luol Deng is to respect him.

Forget the Bulls. In Deng's eight NBA seasons in Chicago, no professional athlete has represented the city or himself with any more class than the Sudanese refugee whose rare sense of social responsibility stems from a powerful personal narrative.

When Deng was 5, as most Bulls fans know, his family fled Sudan to escape a deadly civil war that made hiding under the bed to avoid gunfire an indelible memory. Deng's father, Aldo, the country's minister of transportation, found refuge for his nine children in Egypt and, four years later, reunited the family in London after Britain offered political asylum.

It was on English soil that Deng, a natural soccer player, honed his basketball skills playing alongside boys who would grow up to be teammates on Britain's national team. It was there that Deng first dared to dream of fulfilling a goal that remains special based on the conviction in his voice late Thursday night in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.

"Since I was a kid growing up, it's something I always wanted an opportunity to be part of,'' Deng said after the Game 6 loss to the 76ers. "I'm going to play in the Olympics.''

But if Deng indeed plays in the Games, he risks putting his own interests ahead of his employer's. Will Deng place patriotism rooted in his past ahead of a paycheck that has afforded the lifestyle allowing him to change the future? That would be a bloody shame for the Bulls.