Remembering Manute Bol: Bigger than Basketball

Manute Bol was seven feet, seven inches tall, the tallest player in history of the NBA (next to Gheorghe Muresan).

A giant amongst men. He was of the Dinka Tribe, who were among the tallest populations in the world. While he was a memorable player, his accomplishments are bigger than basketball itself.

Before coming to America, Bol experienced the civil unrest and racial strife in his home country of Sudan as a part of the military and national basketball team. After being deemed ineligible for the NBA Draft in 1983, Bol enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, where he averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game. He opted into the draft after his second year of college, needing money to take his sister out of a turmoil-filled Sudan.

In 1985, the Washington Bullets selected him with the 31st pick in the draft. Bol had stints with several teams including the Philadelphia 76ers and most notably the Golden State Warriors, forming friendships with players such as Mugsy Bogues and Chris Mullin.

Before the Splash Brothers, Manute Bol electrified the Bay Area with rare 3-point barrages like the performance below.

With his towering height and length, Bol was perhaps one of the most intimidating shot-blockers during his time. He averaged the most career blocks per 48 minutes with 8.6. He ranks 15th in total career blocks. He’s also the only player in history to record more blocks than points; 2,086 to 1,599. After 10 seasons in the NBA with four different teams, Manute was done with the league after a knee injury in 1995.

Despite his recognizable stature and defensive prowess, Manute’s biggest impact was done outside of the basketball court. He was an activist and a humanitarian.  He made visits to support Sudanese refugees and his generosity nearly made him penniless. In 2001, Bol established the Ring True Foundation to help his people. He gave $3.5 million (most of his NBA fortune) to charities and other groups that brought food, medicine and hope to South Sudan.

Bol eventually worked to bring reconciliation and education to Sudan through Sudan Sunrise. He aimed to foster peace, hope, and forgiveness for children of all tribes and religions. Bol made appearances in Sudanese election in hopes to counter-influence corruption. During an extended stay in Sudan to help build a school, he developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a condition that caused him to lose patches of skin.

Manute Bol died in June of 2010.

Though he probably doesn’t rank up there with Shaq and Kareem in terms of elite centers, Bol’s activism and charity work continues to be recognized today. In a way, he gave his life while aiding his country.

Manute Bol’s height may be extremely rare, but his selflessness was one of a kind.