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Manute Bol
Position: -
Born: -
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Earnings: $5,150,000 ($11,128,196*)
In discussing his storied playing career, the hosts ask Barkley about his time with the “Dream Team” at the 1992 Olympics. Specifically, how he reacted to coach Chuck Daly telling him that he was the second-best player on the team, behind Michael Jordan. “I said, ‘I agree with you, but I’m going to put an end to that shit next year’,” said Barkley, referring to his run with the Phoenix Suns. “I said, ‘we’re playing them in the finals and I’m going to bring it.’ When I got to Phoenix, I told them on the first day that we’re going to the finals and that I’m sick of everyone telling me that he’s better than me…We got there and they beat us. That was the first time I ever said in my life that there was someone who was better than me at basketball. In my whole life. I had Manute Bol and Shelton Jones, so I thought that those guys weren’t better than me, they just had more help.”
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.'”