Manute Bol RumorsAll NBA Players
Former Bullets center Manute Bol is being honored with a life-size bobblehead and a larger-than-normal bobblehead giveaway in Oakland on Tuesday. The first 10,000 fans at Oracle Arena for the Warriors-Bulls game will receive a 10-inch bobblehead of Bol, who was traded to the Warriors in 1988 after playing the first three seasons of his career in Washington. The Warriors will also unveil a 7-foot-7 bobblehead of Bol on the main concourse as part of a promotion to raise money for the team’s community foundation.
Reyes shakes his head. His hope is that one day the brothers will connect. That a firmer bond grows through time. “I know Manute was very proud of Madut playing at St. Anthony’s and it’s something Manute would tell me all of the time,” Reyes said. “I think it hurt Manute that he didn’t have a stronger relationship with Madut. In talking to Madut himself, it’s something I sense he regrets, too; that he wasn’t as close to his father as he could have been. Bol was a second chance for Manute to a better father than he was with his older boys, and he was, he really was.” Sometime this summer, Bol is hoping to return to the Sudan and visit his father’s grave. It’s a trip Madut is thinking about, too. “My father was a giving person, and he thought about others before himself. That’s the way I want to be,” Bol said. “You know, I can still hear his voice in my head, especially when I look at his pictures.”
It was too late. Just as he was walking out of the house, Madut received the call that his father had died. He made it for the funeral. Each morning, Madut wakes up to look at a picture of his father prominently placed on his apartment wall. He carries a picture of his dad in his wallet, a shot of a Sudanese sunset that includes his father’s name, date of birth and death. He also lugs something else. “Every day I wake up just feeling guilty, even though people tell me I shouldn’t,” Madut said. “I think he wanted to be more a part of my life. I forgave him. I wake up and think about him and let him know that I’m sorry. I do feel guilty. I wasn’t able to be there.”
Madut and his family struggled financially, wondering where Manute’s money was going, why he wasn’t there to help. It caused friction between him and his oldest son. Plus, Manute never seemed to be around during Madut’s formative years. At the time, Madut thought the NBA life was taking his father away. He didn’t realize the sacrifice Manute was making. “We had an up-and-down relationship. I was upset because he was never around; we lost touch for a couple of years,” Madut said. “I visited him when he used to live in Connecticut and I forgave him – and from there, it was still up-and-down. It was small things. He wanted to be more a part of my life. I used to wonder where he was earlier in my life, why he wasn’t there then.”
Bol is being mentored by Val Reyes, his AAU coach. Reyes has received job offers from all over the country, suggesting that he move and bring Bol with him. He plans to stay put. Reyes, the father of six boys, has been like a second dad to Bol. “Bol’s first practice, he was around 8 or 9 and scared to go to the gym,” Reyes recalled. “I told him before he went in to tell everyone he’s Bol Bol, Manute Bol’s son, and since then, he’s been fine. He just wants to be himself. He likes to have fun. We were in a tournament in Houston and he came jumping out at me in the dark like a spider one time. It’s exactly something his father would do. He likes to play and joke around. I couldn’t care less whether he plays basketball or not. I made a promise to his father. “I just want Bol to be successful at anything he wants to do. Education is the most important thing, because Manute was building schools in the Sudan for children. I bring it up to Bol; how would it look if he didn’t follow up with his own education? I’ve stressed to him that his father would want him to graduate college.”
Madut and Bol Bol are the spitting image of their father, Manute – the 7-7 Dinka tribe anomaly and owner of one of the most ungainly three-point strokes known to man (he once made six treys in a 1993 game at Phoenix while with the Sixers). Manute played 10 years in the NBA for four teams, including two stints in Philadelphia, and his humanitarian work in his native Sudan is world-renowned. Manute was just 47 when he died June 19, 2010, in Charlottesville, Va., of acute kidney failure complicated by a skin disease known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. He is survived by 10 children – six with his first wife, Atong, four with his second wife, Ajok – including his two basketball-playing sons. Madut Bol, Manute’s eldest son, is a 6-9, 200-pound senior center at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Bol Bol, 13, is from Olathe, Kan. At 6-4 1/2, he’s considered one of the best in the country in his age group.
At 7-foot-7, the late Manute Bol was one of the tallest players to ever play in the NBA. While Bol passed away in 2010, his son, Bol Bol, appears poised to follow in his father’s extra large footsteps. Bol Bol is a 6-foot-5 seventh-grader in Kansas who, just like his father, has surprising range for a player of his stature. (While his form wasn’t the prettiest, Manute Bol once hit six 3-pointer in a game.)
How about the time he put 6-foot-7 Chris Mullin on 7-foot-1 David Robinson in a playoff series? That was quirky. Just like Mullin on 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton, also in the postseason. And Patrick Ewing as a point-center. Innovative. That was the tag Don Nelson got for decades of trying to lure opponents into mismatch hell as coach of the Bucks, Warriors (twice), Knicks and Mavericks. It was the quirky way he’d encourage Manute Bol to rain threes to force the defense to come out (in the days before zones, thereby opening the interior to give small-ball Golden State a chance to get to the rim) or maybe just to force a good laugh on people. Nelson’s fish ties in Milwaukee, Bol launching from distance — same difference.
And here’s where the story gets really interesting. As Bol was in Washington, this comedic cartoon of height, he was holding regular war strategy sessions in his basement. Thanks to his bankroll and his connections, Bol quickly became “John Garang’s man in Washington.” Garang, the head of the SPLM, would go on to become Sudanese vice president. But in the 1980s he would spend a lot of time with guards standing outside, looking for spies or terrorists, huddled in Bol’s basement. Bol would reportedly contribute $3.5 million to Garang’s SPLM, and in the offseason, Bol accompanied Garang on secret trips to the war zone, to see his investment in action. It is well worth reading Conn’s entire account to get a sense of the mixed bag that resulted from all that. As something of a happy ending, however, comes the story of Bol in Spring 2010. On his last night in Sudan before a flight back to the States, he drank wine with Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is now the president of South Sudan.
Dinka or not, Bol had no patience for a man who’d dare interrupt his sleep. “Why are you calling me so early!” Bol yelled. “Don’t you know that I am sleeping?” The man on the other end was unsympathetic. He’d called because militias were sweeping through southern Sudan, leaving villages burned and children orphaned, terrorizing anyone who stood in their way. “You are sleeping?” he fired back. “While you are sleeping our people are dying!” Bol hung up, furious. Several weeks later, the man — a representative of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, the southern Sudanese rebels –visited the Bay Area while traveling through the U.S. to gain support for his cause. When the caller arrived, Bol’s cousin Nicola, whose family lived with Bol in Alameda, warned the man not to mention the phone conversation. And when the two met in person, Bol started coming around. He liked this guy — liked his passion, his ideas. It took a little convincing, but eventually the SPLM rep prevailed. It was time, Bol decided, to join the fight.
Because he was a star, Bol’s phone rang often, bringing praise or requests, introducing him to people eager to be helped by his fame. And because he was a star, Bol was often unfit to answer the phone in the mornings — another night out, another few rounds of Heineken or Beck’s. Bol hated mornings. If a fan approached him at night or even in the afternoon, he would offer a smile, even grinning through jokes about his height if he was in the right mood. His natural friendliness was a source of pride, and he’d worked hard to become a cult figure and fan favorite, shaking hands and signing autographs. Mornings, however, were different. “At that time we flew commercial, so we always had to get up the morning after a game and go to the airport,” says Hersey Hawkins, a former teammate. “People would always come up and want to talk to him, saying things like ‘How does it feel to be so tall?’ and he’d just say, ‘Go away’ and grumble something like, ‘Stupid Americans.’ We always laughed when people walked up to him, because we knew what was coming.”
The NBA has been mostly quiet about this, at least publicly. Contacted for this column, a spokesman would only release a prepared statement from Kathy Behrens, league VP for social responsibility and player programs, who avoided specifics but said in part: “We’re now looking at how the NBA Family can continue to support the work that Manute was doing in the Sudan to make access to education a reality.”
Kevin McHale is a Hall of Fame player with a regular platform on national television. He’s on the phone now, because ever since he saw that TV piece he’s been trying to organize his famous and powerful friends. “It’s incumbent on us to help him fulfill his dream,” McHale says. The surest sign that something big is about to happen comes Tuesday. That’s when executives from the NBA are to meet with Tom Prichard, head of the Lenexa-based Sudan Sunrise charity that was so dear to Bol’s heart. For years, the NBA mostly kept away from Bol’s cause. That’s changed in the time since his death.
Bol had planned to build 41 schools in his native Sudan, where he hoped education could unite a region torn by war. He had lost hundreds of family members in that violence, but saved at least that many with peacekeeping efforts that one author compared to Muhammad Ali’s. Then, radio shows across the country picked up the story, there was a feature in the New York Times and, eventually, a video was produced by the NBA that was broadcast on the league’s TV network.
You might remember a column in The Star in late May about a 7-foot-7 hero named Manute Bol fighting for his life. You might remember that Bol, who made his home in Olathe, passed away a few weeks later. And you might have seen The New York Times pick up the story. What you probably don’t know is what’s happened since. Between 400 and 700 new donors have given to Bol’s cause, a man’s lifelong vision finally taking hold after his death. In the months since, nearly $100,000 has been raised. Now the undereducated children Bol fought for have a newly finished school and the malnourished kids he died for are being fed. “I think he would be happy if he could see all of this,” Mayom Majok, Bol’s nephew, said by phone from Sudan. “It’s tough when he’s no longer here. But people are still working hard. We’re still moving forward. I think he would be happy if he could see what’s happening right now.”
Manute Bol killed a lion as a young herdsman in Sudan and played basketball with ferocity, but it was the late NBA star’s generous heart that was remembered Sunday. “At our time of greatest need, he stood for us,” said Jacoma Kon, one of the Sudanese “Lost Boys” whom Bol helped. “I survived. I am the seed he planted. He’s truly the most important man we met.” Kon was among more than 150 people at Antioch Church in Overland Park, many from the local Sudanese community, honoring Bol at a memorial service.
The body of basketball star Manute Bol returned to south Sudan on Saturday, where a crowd paid tribute to a national hero revered for his charity work at home as much as his sporting glory in the United States. Bol, the 7-foot-7 (2.31 metre) shot blocker who took an unlikely path from cattle herder in south Sudan through 10 seasons in the NBA to an internationally-respected humanitarian career, died in a U.S. hospital on June 19 at the age of 47. The charity he worked with building schools in Sudan said the cause of death was kidney failure and a painful skin disease, Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
The body of Manute Bol lay in an 8-foot-long, specially built casket in the vast splendor of the ornate Washington National Cathedral. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate setting for a man who seemed larger than life in so many ways. The 7-foot-7 former NBA player who worked diligently to improve conditions in his native Sudan was remembered as a shot-blocker to be feared and a humanitarian to be loved at a funeral service Tuesday. “Wow. That guy is tall. He’s a giant,” said former NBA player and league vice president of player development Rory Sparrow, reciting his first impressions upon meeting Bol. “And little did I know how true that statement was. Because not only was he an intimidating force on the court, someone to reckoned with in the game . . . but he was also a giant off the court. ”
Manute Bol is being remembered as a giant on and off the court. Funeral services were held Tuesday morning for the 7-foot-7 former NBA player, who died June 19 at age 47. Bol’s body was brought into the Washington National Cathedral in a specially built 8-foot casket. The service included representatives from the NBA and the Sudanese community who spoke of Bol’s efforts to build schools in his native country.
The funeral for former Washington Bullet Manute Bol, who died June 19 at the age of 47, is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at the Washington National Cathedral. The service will be open to the public and will be shown live online. Bol, who towered over other players at 7 feet, 6 inches tall, suffered internal bleeding from complications with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a condition he contracted from medication he took in Africa.