By Ramona Shelburne
ESPN Senior Writer
There were other ways for Adut Bulgak to get in touch with fellow South Sudanese and NBA forward Luol Deng. Swin Cash, Bulgak’s teammate on the New York Liberty, even said she’d help the first ever South Sudanese player in the WNBA reach out to Deng through more official channels.
But Bulgak is 23 years old, and when 23-year-olds want to reach out, they use social media.
Last week, Bulgak tweeted at Deng and invited him to watch a game, saying, “It’s time we meet!” followed by a happy-faced emoji, a thumbs up and the South Sudanese flag.
The Liberty were about to take off on a flight. When they landed two hours later, Deng had responded, “Congratulations, really important moment for South Sudan basketball. Also, Invitation accepted. See you July 3rd.”
And sure enough, Deng — who agreed to a four-year, $72 million contract with the Lakers on Saturday — showed up at the Liberty’s game against the Sparks in Los Angeles on Sunday and stayed to meet Bulgak after the game.
“Him showing up means a lot,” said Bulgak, whose family fled the South Sudan civil war in 1999 as refugees. She was 10 years old at the time and was later raised in Winnipeg, Canada, along with six siblings.
Deng’s family fled what is now South Sudan when he was 5 years old in 1989. He was raised in England and became a British citizen in 2005, but he’s become a global ambassador for his former country.
“He’s made such a huge impact,” Bulgak said of Deng. “Every time I see something about South Sudan his name is tied to it. I’m really excited about the things he’s doing for our nation.
“We know where we came from. We were both refugees. We didn’t have any luxuries in getting here. And we both want to stay true to our roots.”