Sunday, June 20, 2010

Manute Bol 1962-2010 RIP

Manute and MugsyImage by RoninKengo via Flickr
Former NBA player Manute Bol passed away yesterday at the age of 47 from acute kidney failure and a painful skin condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

Bol was drafted in the second round of the 1985 draft by the Washington Bullets, so I was able to watch the start of his NBA career.  At the time, he was the tallest player ever to play in the NBA at 7'7".  Bol was an incredibly thin player with long, slender limbs.  He lacked a lot of the bulk and strength needed to be an everyday player in the NBA.  Despite his frail frame, he managed to play 10 season in the league.  As I heard someone say one time, "You can't teach height."

The one part of his game that Bol that made him stand head and shoulders above others was his incredible shot blocking ability.  In his rookie year, he managed to play in 80 games and averaged 5 blocks per game, still a rookie record.  Despite only averaging 18 minutes a game during his career, he still is second all time in blocks per game, and first by a large margin in blocks per 48 minutes played.  He also shares records in most blocks in a half and in a quarter.  He is the only player to finish his career with more blocked shots than points.

Bol was always a bit of an oddity throughout his career in the NBA.  In his third season in the league, the Bullets drafted 5'3" guard Tyrone Bogues pairing the league's tallest player ever with the league's shortest player ever.  After his career, he was not above doing a variety of things as a publicity stunt, but there were reasons behind that.  Throughout his career and after his career, Bol was a huge philanthropist.  He sent millions back to his native Sudan to try to improve conditions in his homeland.  After his career, he participated in events like Celebrity Boxing when he fought against William "the Refrigerator" Perry.  All so he could continue his charitable works.

At the start of his NBA career, the Bullets played at the old Capital Center in Landover, MD.  It was not unusual for players for the Bullets or the Washington Caps to live in or near Bowie, MD.  As it turns out, Bol lived for a while in the same townhouse complex as my younger brother here in Bowie.  Consequently, I have a couple second hand stories about Manute in and around the Bowie area.

One day, my brother was shooting baskets with three other guys, when Manute walks on to the court and asks to play.  My brother was wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, and since Bol played his college ball in New England, he and my brother were teammates against the other three guys.  Bol mostly passed the ball to my brother, and rarely took a shot.  When he did, it was a long range shot.  He actually had a decent outside shot and one year with Golden State made 20 three point shots. 

Another story involved a friend of mine.  He was in the drive through at the bank when he looked over at the SUV next to him.  He did not see a driver in the vehicle and was somewhat shocked.  As the SUV pulled away, he saw Manute sitting in what would normally be the back seat of the car.  He had to have the front seat removed so that he could drive it.  Quite a sight I am sure.

The world was a better place because of Manute Bol.  Not because of his basketball playing, but because of his basketball career he was able to help so many others.  Manute, you died too young.  May you rest in peace.
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  1. Wow, another one gone. I'm just learning of this news now via your blog. You put together a nice article. I once saw Manute Bol in Atlantic City in a Casino playing craps. It was odd seeing someone so tall standing at the table. RIP.

  2. I heard about it sometime on Saturday. We were watching a NASCAR race on ESPN when my wife saw it on a crawl. It sounds like he had a pretty hard time in his final days.

  3. One of my Bowie friends took a job in California. He didn't want to sell his house in Bowie, so he decided to rent it out. Manute Bol tried to rent it, but, believe it or not, his application came back with credit problems.



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