British sports stars who have made it in America

Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng
Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young

The annual American Football NFL draft is currently taking place, with teams lining up to pick young stars to strenghten their team. For the first time ever, three British players have the chance to make it in the NFL.

However, Tom Wort, Olympian Laurence Okoye and favourite Menelik Watson have not been selected in the first round of the draft, reserved for the most sought-after players.

Sportsmen and women from the UK do not have a prolific history of being able to make the transfer to US sports - only 11 British players have ever made it to the NBA in its 67 year history.

However, there have been several prominent players over the years who have managed to rise to success in a country where sports stars are cultivated from a young age, through high school and later college sports.

Luol Deng

Luol Deng in action for the Chicago Bulls
Luol Deng in action for the Chicago Bulls Credit: Chicago Tribune/ABACA/Press Association Images

The most well-known British sportsman in the US, Sudanese-born Deng was raised in Brixton, London and is one of the Chicago Bulls' top players.

Deng entered the NBA draft in 2004, and was selected seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns. He is a two-time All Star, and his consistent performances have meant he plays almost all of the Bulls' games in their entirety. US President Barack Obama has said that he is his favourite player.

Deng is also known for his work off the court. As well as his humanitarian work, earlier this year he campaigned to "save British basketball" by writing to prime minister David Cameron.

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Laurence Tynes

Lawrence Tynes
Lawrence Tynes Credit: Reuters

Lawrence Tynes is the son of a former Navy SEAL and a Scottish mother, and was born in Argyll, Scotland.

He is one of only three UK players to have won a championship in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls with the New York Giants in 2007 and 2011.

Tynes is also the only player in NFL history to have two game winning field goals during overtime in the playoffs.

Johannah Leedham

Johannah Leedham
Johannah Leedham Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Johannah Leedham is a basketball player who has represtented Great Britain at the Olympics. In 2010, she was picked in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) 2010 draft by the Connecticut Sun.

Byron Defoe

Former goalie Byron Dafoe
Former goalie Byron Dafoe Credit: REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Byron Dafoe was drafted 35th overall in the 2nd round of the 1989 National Hockey League Draft (NHL) by the Washington Capitals, making his debut three seasons later.

He helped the Boston Bruins to a playoff series win in 1999, before retiring after the 2004 NHL Lockout after his final season with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Lance Painter

Toronto Blue jays' Lance Painter
Toronto Blue jays' Lance Painter Credit: Reuters

Lance Painter was born in Bedford, England, and is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, who played for five teams in a 10 year career.

After retiring, Painter worked as a pitching coach for Great Britain's national basketball team for the European Baseball Championships in 2005, where the team narrowly missed out on qualifying.

Read more: Olympian Lawrence Okoye pursuing American sporting dream