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.
Madut Bol Rumors
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 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.”
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.”
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.”