For years, he has wanted a relationship with Bol, a second-round pick this year who plays for the Denver Nuggets. He says he wants to be there for him, to help him, guide him and support him — all the things a big brother is supposed to do. But ever since their dad died in 2010, they have rarely spent time together or even spoken. (The Nuggets declined to make Bol available for this story.) The reasons why are complicated and go far beyond their decade in age difference.
When Madut was 5 or 6 in the mid-’90s, his dad packed his bags and told him, “I’ll be back.” There was nothing unusual about the moment; Manute traveled all the time. But that time, Madut waited and waited for him to come home. Days turned into weeks. Madut asked his mom where his dad was, but she had no idea either. Weeks turned into months. Madut received no phone calls, no letters or emails. One moment, his dad was his hero, the larger-than-life personality who dominated every room and cracked open Madut’s closed-off personality. The next, he was gone without an explanation. Madut and his brothers and sisters learned about their dad’s new life in Sudan from a 2001 Sports Illustrated story in which Manute talked to a reporter while his second wife, Ajok, cradled their 19-month-old son, Bol.