The award is presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association and honors an NBA player or coach for outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Deng recently recorded a public service message for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. In the video, he tells young people to make peace among those fighting, encourage others to forgive and build trust with people who fear each other.
The two-time All-Star created the Luol Deng Foundation, a global non-profit organization that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The work in Africa focuses on building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities.
"It's an honor to be recognized for any award, but this one is special because it represents who I am as a person and where I came from," said Deng in a statement released by the Cavaliers. "What I'm most proud of is that my family can look back after my career is over and realize that I was able to make a difference on and off the basketball court. That is something that tells the true story as to who I am as a person, someone who cares about his community and wants to improve the lives of others."
Other candidates for the award this season were Miami's Ray Allen, San Antonio's Matt Bonner, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Toronto's Amir Johnson, Atlanta's Kyle Korver, Portland's Damian Lillard, Minnesota's Kevin Love, the Lakers' Steve Nash, Chicago's Joakim Noah and the Clippers' Chris Paul.
First presented in 1975 to Washington's Wes Unseld, the only other Cleveland players selected for the honor were Austin Carr in 1980 and Eric Snow in 2005.