Manute Bol RumorsAll NBA Players
Earnings: $5,150,000 ($9,619,654*)
Earnings: $5,150,000 ($9,619,654*)
But more surreal were the ways in which Bol reminded Madut of their father, Manute Bol, the tallest person to ever play in the NBA and one of the league’s great humanitarians. An admirer called him the “Muhammad Ali or Nelson Mandela of his time” for all he had done in South Sudan. “You can look right at (Bol) and tell,” Madut says. “Just the way he walks. People say the same thing to me: ‘You walk like your dad.’ I don’t see it because I’m not looking at me walking. But seeing him walk, he walks just like Dad. Smiles like Dad. Just looks exactly like him.” After the game, Madut drove home without talking to Bol.
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.
To Kuhn, Nelson would represent one of those intellectual anomalies, and an incredibly persistent one. During his 31 seasons on the sideline, Nellie repeatedly questioned basic basketball assumptions. To win you need a big man on the block. Centers should stay in the paint. Players need to fit rigid positions. As Nelson once explained to the San Francisco Chronicle: “I had spent my whole life asking: ‘Why are point guards expected to only pass, why are small forwards expected to only score and why are centers expected to only post up?’” For his efforts, Nelson was alternately celebrated and derided. “Mad scientist” is both a pejorative and a compliment, after all. When Nellie gave Manute Bol the green light to shoot threes in 1988, Bol proceeded to jack up nearly 100 of them; no small feat considering entire teams took less than 250 a season back then. Granted, Bol only made 20, but he appreciated the concept, even if others didn’t. “Some friends told me that when we play the Lakers, the announcer for L.A. said, ‘Doesn’t Nellie know he shouldn’t shoot that? He has no business shooting from out there,’” Bol told the LA Times in 1989. “But (Nelson) said, ‘If you think it’s a good shot, take it.'”
Twenty years ago, political activist, humanitarian and former NBA center Manute Bol was accused of being an American spy and was blocked by his native Sudanese government from escaping to the United States. Four years later, the 7-foot-6-inch Bol and his family, which included his young son Bol Bol, moved to America as designated political refugees. Bol said his father cared more about others than he did himself.
“He did a lot of great things on the court, but most people remember him because of what he did off of it helping schools and building hospitals. He did some really good things back home,” Bol said. “I am probably most proud of what he did helping my family and everything he did in Africa. It’s probably the best thing he did.”
It appears that Bol’s road to the NBA could be much easier than his father’s. Like his father, he hopes to make a name for himself off the hardwood, too. “When I can go back [to Sudan], I definitely will,” Bol said. “Later on, I plan on going back and finishing everything he started. But that is later in the future. It is where I was born. So, I have to go back and visit.
For Luc Mbah a Moute, visits with Olajuwon have a more personal meaning as one of the inspirations for his career. Mbah a Moute, a native of Cameroon, said he even cites the examples of Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo coming out of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he speaks to young players in Africa. “They set the example,” Mbah a Moute said. “When I say they, Hakeem and Dikembe, to name those two pioneers, they are the reason why we’re here. You can name Manute Bol, as well. I think all African players, we all looked up to him. They paved the way, especially him because he went to college here, him and Dikembe. They pretty much paved the way for guys like me to be here. I’ve always looked at him as an inspiration to pave the way with other kids, kids I’ve been involved with so far.”