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Manute Bol (/məˈnt ˈbl/; d. June 19, 2010) was a Sudanese-born American basketball player and political activist. Listed at 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) tall, Bol was one of the two tallest players in the history of the National Basketball Association.

Manute Bol
Manute Bol 2006.jpg
Bol in 2006
Personal information
BornUnknown[1][2][3]
Turalei or Gogrial, Sudan
Died(2010-06-19)June 19, 2010
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
NationalitySudanese / American
Listed height7 ft 7 in (2.31 m)
Listed weight200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
CollegeBridgeport (1984–1985)
NBA draft1985 / Round: 2 / Pick: 31st overall
Selected by the Washington Bullets
Playing career1985–1996
PositionCenter
Number10, 11, 4, 1
Career history
1985Rhode Island Gulls
19851988Washington Bullets
19881990Golden State Warriors
19901993Philadelphia 76ers
1993–1994Miami Heat
1994Washington Bullets
1994Philadelphia 76ers
1994–1995Golden State Warriors
1995–1996Florida Beach Dogs
1996C. Montana Forlì
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points1,599 (2.6 ppg)
Rebounds2,647 (4.2 rpg)
Blocks2,086 (3.3 bpg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

After playing college basketball at the University of Bridgeport, Bol was chosen by the Washington Bullets in the 1985 NBA Draft. Bol played for the Bullets and three other teams over the course of his NBA career, which lasted from 1985 to 1995. A center, Bol was considered among the best shot-blockers in the history of the sport, although other aspects of his game were considered below average.

Over the course of his career, Bol totaled more blocked shots than points scored; he is the only NBA player ever to do so. As of 2010, he ranks second in NBA history in blocked shots per game and 15th in total blocked shots.

Bol was notable for his efforts to promote human rights in his native Sudan and aid for Sudanese refugees.

Contents

Early life

Manute Bol was born to Madute and Okwok Bol in Turalei or Gogrial, Sudan and raised near Gogrial. Bol's father, a Dinka tribal elder, gave him the name Manute; the name means "special blessing".[4]

Bol came from a family of extraordinarily tall men and women, stating: "My mother was 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), my father 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and my sister is 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)", he said. "And my great-grandfather was even taller—7 ft 10 in (2.39 m)." His ethnic group, the Dinka, and the Nilotic people[5] of which they are a part, are among the taller populations of the world. Bol's hometown, Turalei, is the origin of other exceptionally tall individuals, including 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) basketball player Ring Ayuel. Ayuel is a refugee from the civil war which broke out soon after Bol emigrated to the U.S. and which eventually led to the destruction of most of Turalei.[6]

Bol started playing soccer (football) in 1972, but abandoned the game because he was too tall.[7]

"I was born in a village, where you cannot measure yourself," Bol reflected. "I learned I was 7 foot 7 in 1979, when I was grown. I was about 18 or 19."[8]

During his later teens, he started playing basketball, playing in Sudan for several years with teams in Wau and Khartoum, where he experienced prejudice from the northern Sudanese majority.[9]

While still living in Sudan, Bol apparently held an $80-a-month (1983 US$) job in the Sudanese military and played on the Sudanese National basketball team from 1982-1983.[10][11]

Cleveland / 1983 NBA draft voided

Cleveland State

Coach Don Feeley, formerly the coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, traveled to Sudan to coach and held clinics for the Sudanese national team in 1982. Feeley eventually convinced Bol to go to the United States and play basketball.[12][13]

With Feeley's input, Bol first landed in Cleveland and Cleveland State University under Coach Kevin Mackey. Bol had no formal record of his birth date and could not provide one, according to Coach Mackey. As Bol did not know his date of birth, Mackey listed it as October 16, 1962 on Cleveland State documents; however, Mackey believed Bol was actually much older.[1][2][3]

Bol did not speak or write English at the time of his arrival in Cleveland. He improved his English skills after months of classes at ELS Language Centers on the Case Western Reserve University campus, but not enough to qualify for enrollment at Cleveland State. Bol never played a game for Cleveland State. (Five years later, Cleveland State was placed on two years' probation for providing improper financial assistance to Bol and two other African players.[14][15]

1983 NBA draft voided

Again, with Feeley's influence, Bol declared his intention to play professionally with the NBA. Subsequently, Bol was drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the fifth round of the 1983 NBA draft (97th overall) after he had declared himself.

Clippers Coach Jim Lynam received a call about Bol from Coach Feeley, who he knew from coaching circles. "So, I said, 'Have you told anyone else about this?' " Lynam recalled. "Feeley said the only one in the NBA he had called was Frank Layden at Utah. He said Frank said he couldn't take another big guy like this. He already had Mark Eaton. I was the second guy Feeley had called. I told him he didn't have to call anyone else."[16]

After the June, 1983 draft, Lynam traveled to Cleveland and watched Manute play in pickup games. In speaking with Bol, through a fellow Sudanese player, Lynam learned that Manute had become hesitant about playing professionally because he did not know the language well enough to understand what his coaches were telling him to do.[16]

Lynam noted that, "One of the things everyone was looking at was his passport. His passport said he was 19 years old. His passport also said he was five feet two."

When Lynam asked Bol about the discrepancy with his real height and his passport height, he said that Bol explained that he had been sitting down when measured by Sudan officials.[16]

However, language and passport concerns were set aside when the NBA ruled that Bol had not been eligible for the draft and declared the pick invalid. Bol had not declared 45 days before the draft, as required.[17][13][11]

College career

With the NCAA questioning his eligibility for NCAA Division I basketball, Bol enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, an NCAA Division II school with an English program for foreign students. There, he played for the Purple Knights in the 1984–1985 season. His coach was Bruce Webster, a friend of Don Feeley. Bol averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 7.1 blocks per game for Bridgeport. The team, which previously drew 500–600 spectators, routinely sold out the 1,800-seat gym.[10]

With Bol, Bridgeport qualified for the 1985 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament.[15]

Professional basketball career

Bol turned professional after Bridgeport's season ended, signed with the Rhode Island Gulls of the spring United States Basketball League in May 1995, playing under Coach Kevin Stacom. A teammate, with the Gulls, was Muggsy Bogues who later would notably team with Bol in Washington.[18][19][20]

Going into the 1985 NBA draft, scouts felt that Bol needed another year or two of college, but Bol opted for the draft because he felt that it was the only way to earn enough money to get his sister out of Sudan, which was in a state of political unrest at the time.[10] In 1985, Bol was drafted as the seventh pick in the second round by the Washington Bullets (31st overall). He played in the NBA for ten seasons, from 1985 to 1995, spending parts of four seasons with the Bullets, parts of three with the Golden State Warriors, parts of four with the Philadelphia 76ers, and part of one season with the Miami Heat.

Washington Bullets I (1985-1988)

On June 18, 1985, Manute Bol was drafted as the seventh pick in the second round by the Washington Bullets (31st overall).[21]

Bol's first tenure with the Bullets lasted three seasons, from 1985 to 1988. In his rookie season (1985–1986), he appeared in 80 games and recorded a career-high 5.0 blocks per game. His total of 397 blocks set the NBA rookie record, and remains the second-highest single-season total in league history behind Mark Eaton's 456 in 1984–85.[21][22][23]

During his NBA career, Bol was listed at 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) tall.[24] He was measured by the Guinness Book of World Records at 7 ft 6 3/4 in tall.[25] Complementing his great height, Bol possessed exceptionally long limbs (inseam 49 inches (120 cm)) and large hands and feet (size 16 1/2). His arm span, at 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m), is (as of 2013) the longest in NBA history, and his upward reach was 10 feet 5 inches (3.18 m).[26][27] He was extremely slender, limiting his offensive capability. When he arrived in the United States, he weighed 180 pounds (82 kg)[28] and had gained just under 20 pounds (9.1 kg) by the time he entered the NBA. The Washington Bullets sent Bol to strength training with University of Maryland coach Frank Costello, where he could initially lift only 44 pounds (20 kg) on 10-repetition bench press and 55 pounds (25 kg) on 10-repetition squat[29] (his body mass index was 15.3 and he initially had a 31" (80 cm) waist).[30] In 1987, the Bullets drafted the 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) point guard Muggsy Bogues, pairing the tallest and shortest players in the league on the court for one season.[31][21][32]

Golden State Warriors I (1988-1990)

On June 8, 1988, Bol was traded by the Bullets to the Golden State Warriors for Dave Feitl and a 1989 2nd round draft pick (Doug Roth was later selected).[21]

Bol's first tenure with the Golden State Warriors lasted for two seasons, from 1988 to 1990. In his first season with Golden State, he first attempted three-point shots with regularity. In that season, he shot a career-high 91 three-pointers and made 20 of them. During this time, he may have helped to popularize the expression "my bad", although a 2005 suggestion that he coined the phrase has been discounted.[33][34]

Philadelphia 76ers I (1990-1993)

On August 1, 1990, Bol was traded by Golden State to the Philadelphia 76ers for a 1991 1st round draft pick (Chris Gatling was later selected).[21]

Bol's first tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers lasted for three seasons, from 1990 to 1993. Although he played in a career-high 82 games in his first season as a 76er, his production began to decline afterward (in both games played and per-game statistics). After playing in all 82 games in 1990–1991, he played in 71 games the next season, and in 58 (a career low at the time) games the following season. During his last season in Philadelphia, he had a memorable night playing against former teammate Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, hitting 6 of 12 three-pointers, all in the second half in a losing effort.[35] Fans were known to yell out "shoot" as soon as Bol received the ball far from the basket.[36]

Miami Heat (1993)

Released by Philadelphia, Bol played in eight games in the 1993–1994 season with the Miami Heat, the only team that did not use him as a starter. He scored only one two-point field goal with the team and blocked six shots in 61 total minutes.[37]

Washington Bullets II (1993)

Released by Miami, Bol's second stint with the Bullets lasted only two games in 1993–1994. After this, he helped develop fellow 7 ft 7 teammate Gheorghe Mureșan.[37]

Philadelphia 76ers II (1994)

After his release by Miami, Bol's second stint with the 76ers lasted for four games, near the end of the 1993–1994 season, helping to mentor 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) teammate Shawn Bradley. In only 49 minutes, he played more aggressively than he did earlier in the season with Miami and Washington. He scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked nine shots.[37]

Golden State Warriors II (1994)

In the 1994–95 NBA season, Bol returned to the Warriors. He made the season-opening roster and played in what would be his final five NBA games. On a memorable night in the middle of November, Bol finally made his home debut, coming off of the bench to play 29 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bol attempted three three-pointers in the fourth quarter, scoring all of them.[38] Seven nights later in Charlotte, in a game that was nationally televised by TNT, he was in the starting lineup again. By this time, two weeks into the season, his career seemed rejuvenated under Warrior head coach Don Nelson; he was again a defensive force, making threes and contributing as a starter to create matchup problems. After playing only ten minutes against the Hornets on November 22, 1994, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Before he left the game, he recorded one block and two points and attempted a three-pointer in ten minutes of play.[38]

Bol was waived by Golden State on February 15, 1995.[37]

Overall in his NBA career, Bol averaged 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists, and 3.3 blocks per game, while playing an average of 18.7 minutes. Bol finished his career with totals of 1,599 points, 2,647 rebounds, and 2,086 blocks. He appeared in 624 games over 10 seasons.[39]

Post-NBA basketball career (1995-1998)

Bol played 22 games for the Florida Beach Dogs of the Continental Basketball Association during the 1995–1996 season under Coach Eric Musselman. The Beach Dogs' games against the Sioux Falls Skyforce in that season were broadcast by ESPN, as the Skyforce also featured a former NBA player, Darryl Dawkins.[40]

In 1996, the Portland Mountain Cats of the United States Basketball League announced that Bol would be playing with the team, but he never appeared in uniform. The coach of the Mountain Cats was Kevin Mackey.[40][41]

Bol played professionally in Italy in 1997 and in Qatar in 1998 before rheumatism forced him to retire permanently.[40]

Shot blocking

With his great height and very long limbs, Bol was one of the league's most imposing defensive presences. Along with setting the rookie shot-blocking record in 1985–86, over the course of his career, Bol tied for the NBA record for the most blocked shots in one half (11) and in one quarter (eight, twice).[42] On January 31, 1992, in a game against the Orlando Magic, he blocked four consecutive shots within a single possession.[43] Throughout his career, he blocked a shot an average of every 5.6 minutes of playing time.[40]

However, Bol's other basketball skills were very limited, and his rail-thin physique made it difficult for him to establish position against the league's bulkier centers and power forwards. The sight of the tall, gangly Bol spotting up for a three-pointer during blow-outs became a fan favorite. Off the court, he established a reputation as a practical joker; Charles Barkley, a frequent victim of his pranks, attested to Bol's sense of humor.[44] Bol also developed a close friendship with Warriors teammate Chris Mullin and named one of his sons after him.

Career accomplishments

Bol was one of the two tallest players in the history of the National Basketball Association; the other is Gheorghe Mureșan.[24]

As of 2010, Bol remains:

  • First in career blocks per 48 minutes (8.6), almost 50% beyond second-place Mark Eaton (5.8).[45]
  • Second in career blocks-per-game average (3.34).[46]
  • Fifteenth in total blocked shots (2,086).[47]
  • The only player in NBA history to have more blocked shots than points scored.[47]

Activism

Bol was very active in charitable causes throughout his career. In fact, he said he spent much of the money he made during a 10-year NBA career supporting various causes related to the war-ravaged nation of his birth, Sudan.[48]

Bol frequently visited Sudanese refugee camps, where he was treated like royalty. In 2001, Bol was offered a post as minister of sport by the Sudanese government. Bol, who was a Christian,[49] refused because one of the conditions was converting to Islam.[50]

Later, Bol was hindered from leaving the country by the Sudanese government, who accused him of supporting the Dinka-led Christian rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Army. The Sudanese government refused to grant him an exit visa unless he came back with more money. Assistance by supporters in the United States, including Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, raised money to provide Bol with plane tickets to Cairo, Egypt. After 6 months of negotiations with U.S. consulate officials regarding refugee status, Bol and his family were finally able to leave Egypt and return to the United States.[50]

Bol established the Ring True Foundation to continue fund-raising for Sudanese refugees. He gave most of his earnings (an estimated $3.5 million) to their cause. In 2002, Fox TV agreed to broadcast the telephone number of his Ring True Foundation in exchange for Bol's agreement to appear on their Celebrity Boxing show. After the referee goaded, "If you guys don't box, you won't get paid", he scored a third-round victory over former football player William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

In the fall of 2002, Bol signed a one-day contract with the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League. Though he could not skate, the publicity generated by his single-game appearance helped raise money to assist children in Sudan.[51] Bol once suited up as a horse jockey for similar reasons.

Bol was involved in the April 2006 Sudan Freedom Walk, a three-week march from the United Nations building in New York City to the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The event was organized by Simon Deng, a former Sudanese swimming champion (currently a lifeguard at Coney Island), who was a longtime friend of Bol's. Deng, who was a slave for three years from the age of nine, is from another tribe in Southern Sudan. His Sudan Freedom Walk is especially aimed at finding a solution to the genocide in Darfur (western Sudan), but it also seeks to raise awareness of the modern-day slavery and human-rights abuses throughout Sudan. Bol spoke in New York City at the start of the walk, and in Philadelphia at a rally organized by former hunger striker Nathan Kleinman.

Bol was also an advocate for reconciliation efforts, and worked to improve education in South Sudan. A Nicholas Kristoff article[52] in The New York Times highlighted this belief and Bol's work for reconciliation and education with an organization called Sudan Sunrise. Bol first began working with Sudan Sunrise to raise awareness on issues of reconciliation in 2005. This included speaking at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, and subsequently partnering with Sudan Sunrise to build schools across South Sudan that, in the spirit of reconciliation, would enroll students regardless of tribe or religion.[53]

Personal life

Bol had six children with his first wife, Along, and four with his second wife, Ajok.[54]

Bol's son, Madut (born December 19, 1989), played college basketball at Southern University and graduated from college in 2013.[55]

Another son, Bol Bol (born November 16, 1999), played for the Oregon Ducks in 2018-2019. Bol Bol declared for the 2019 NBA draft and is projected to be a first-round pick.[56]

During his time in Egypt, Bol ran a basketball school in Cairo. One of his pupils was a fellow Sudanese refugee, Minnesota Timberwolves player Luol Deng, the son of a former Sudanese cabinet minister. Deng later moved to the United States to further his basketball career, continuing a close relationship with Bol.[57]

Despite initially knowing little English and an absence of awareness regarding Western culture, Bol adjusted and was widely regarded as a well-rounded personality who was inquisitive and well-read. He developed a strong friendship with Charles Barkley, who remarked, "If everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in. He's smart. He reads The New York Times. He knows what's going on in a lot of subjects. He's not one of these just-basketball guys".[58]

Bol spoke Dinka and Arabic before mastering English.[59]

After a political dispute in Sudan, Bol was admitted to the United States as a religious refugee in 2002 and settled in West Hartford, Connecticut.[26]

In July 2004, Bol was seriously injured in a car accident in Colchester when he was ejected from a taxi that hit a guardrail and overturned, resulting in a broken neck.[60] The driver was under the influence, with a suspended license.[61] Because his fortunes were mostly donated to Sudan, he was financially ruined because he had no health insurance.[43] When he recovered from his injuries, he moved to Olathe, Kansas.[26]

Death

On June 19, 2010, Bol died from acute kidney failure and complications from Stevens–Johnson syndrome at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.[26][62]

After his death, tributes to Bol's basketball career and charitable works came from around the United States and the world.[63][64][65] His former teams, and the NBA, issued statements in recognition of his impact on the sport of basketball and on his native Sudan.[66][67][68] Kansas senator Sam Brownback paid tribute to Bol on the floor of the United States Senate after his death.[69]

Bol is buried in South Sudan.[70]

Funeral service and tributes

 
Bol's memorial service at the National Cathedral

The memorial service for Manute Bol was held on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, at 10:00 am at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Bol's body lay in an eight-foot-long, specially built casket.[71]

Bol was given tributes by United States Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Sudan's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Akec Khoc Acieu, Bol's uncle Bol Bol Chol, and vice president of the National Basketball Players Association Rory Sparrow.[71]

Sparrow remembered Bol as "a giant off the court", who should be remembered for humanitarian work and his basketball career.[71] Senator Brownback recalled, "He literally gave his life for his people. He went over [to Sudan], he was sick. He stayed longer than he should have. He probably contracted this ailment that took his life while in Sudan, and he didn't have to do that. He was an NBA basketball player. He could have stayed here and had an easy life. I've never seen anybody use his celebrity status more nor give his life more completely to a group of people than Manute Bol did. It makes me look at efforts that I do as not enough."

Dr. Akec K.A. Khoc, Ambassador of Sudan to the U.S., said, "Manute had a very great heart for his country and people. He did everything to support anybody in need of shoes, blankets, health service, food, and people who were struggling. He went to see them and to encourage them to continue their struggle for their rights, for their freedoms. Manute embodied everything we can think of in Sudan. Reconciling warring groups between the north and south, in Darfur he was working for reconciliation between Darfur and the south and between Darfur and the rest of Sudan. So, Manute was a voice for hope."

Sudan Sunrise founder, Tom Prichard, says Bol's work to reconcile former enemies lives on. "Manute's legacy and vision of education and reconciliation, his determination to grow grassroots reconciliation—whether that reconciliation is expressed in a country that divides or holds together, wherever the boundary lines are drawn. Manute stood for grassroots reconciliation."[72] Prichard went on to say "There's no question Manute gave his life for his country."[73][73]

Manute Bol's family patriarch, Bol Bol Chol, said, "This man is not an ordinary man. I believe this man is a messenger like other messengers who were sent into this world—to do something in this world. He has accomplished most of his mission, and so God took him and left the rest of the work to be done by others."[72]

Honors

  • Bol was inducted into the University of Bridgeport Athletics Hall of Fame, Class of 2010.[74]
  • On January 27 2015, the Golden State Warriors honored Bol with a Manute Bol bobble head giveaway. The team sponsored a giveaway of 10,000 of the tallest bobble heads in franchise history, at 10 inches.[75][76]
  • The "Manute Bol Court" was built and constructed in South Sudan by the Loul Deng Foundation in 2015.[77][78]
  • The Manute Bol Peace Builders Basketball Tournament is held annually throughout Sudan.[79]
  • In 2016, Bol was inducted into the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame.[80][81]

NBA career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
* Led the league

Regular season

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1985–86 Washington 80 60 26.1 .460 .000 .488 6.0 0.3 0.4 5.0* 3.7
1986–87 Washington 82 12 18.9 .446 .000 .672 4.4 0.1 0.2 3.7 3.1
1987–88 Washington 77 4 14.8 .455 .000 .531 3.6 0.2 0.1 2.7 2.3
1988–89 Golden State 80 4 22.1 .369 .220 .606 5.8 0.3 0.1 4.3* 3.9
1989–90 Golden State 75 20 17.5 .331 .188 .510 3.7 0.5 0.2 3.2 1.9
1990–91 Philadelphia 82 6 18.6 .396 .071 .585 4.3 0.2 0.2 3.0 1.9
1991–92 Philadelphia 71 2 17.8 .383 .000 .462 3.1 0.3 0.2 2.9 1.5
1992–93 Philadelphia 58 23 14.7 .409 .313 .632 3.3 0.3 0.2 2.1 2.2
1993–94 Miami 8 0 7.6 .083 .000 .000 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.8 0.3
1993–94 Philadelphia 4 0 12.3 .429 .000 .000 1.5 0.0 0.5 2.3 1.5
1993–94 Washington 2 0 3.0 .000 .000 .000 0.5 0.0 0.5 0.5 0.0
1994–95 Golden State 5 2 16.2 .600 .600 .000 2.4 0.0 0.0 1.8 3.0
Career 624 133 18.7 .407 .210 .561 4.2 0.3 0.2 3.3 2.6

Playoffs

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1986 Washington 5 5 30.4 .588 .000 .375 7.6 0.2 0.6 5.8 4.6
1987 Washington 3 0 14.3 .400 .000 .000 3.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.6
1988 Washington 5 0 8.8 .571 .000 1.000 2.4 0.0 0.0 0.4 1.8
1989 Golden State 8 0 18.5 .194 .091 .286 3.8 0.1 0.2 3.6 2.2
1991 Philadelphia 8 0 13.6 .500 .000 .667 2.3 0.1 0.1 1.5 3.0
Career 29 5 17.1 .386 .087 .444 3.8 0.1 0.2 2.7 2.8

See also

References

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External links