Manute Bol: Basketball Warrior
Posted Dec 23 2004 1:55PM
NBA TV documentary examines life of 7' 7" novelty
When Manute Bol entered the NBA in 1985, standing 7'7", he seemed to be little more than a novelty. Bol had his greatest impact on the defensive end during a 10-year career with four different teams, blocking over 2,000 shots and finishing second on the NBA's all-time blocks-per-game list. A closer look at what Bol did off the court, however, shows he had so much more to give. Bol focused most of his energy on helping his native country of Sudan as it struggled through a civil war that nearly wiped out Bol's entire Dinka tribe.
Through never-before-seen footage and revealing personal insights, NBA TV provides unprecedented access to Bol’s experiences from his days as the NBA’s tallest player, to his sacrifices to help his people survive civil war in the Sudan, to the car accident that nearly killed him and the painful days that followed before a special friend, Chris Mullin, re-emerged to offer support.
Beyond his basketball skills, Bol was a personality in the league who had a profound effect on his teammates. Mullin, current Golden State Warriors executive vice president and former teammate, was one who took to Manute and helped him during his time in the NBA.
“We got to know each other beyond basketball; beyond the hype,” Mullin said.. “Friendship is based on a lot of things, based on real life, being there for each other, good times and bad. That’s life to me; it’s the circle of life.”
Mullin was touched when Bol named one of his children Chris, in honor of his teammate of two seasons in Golden State. “That’s his way of saying how much he thinks of me, a beautiful tribute … pretty incredible.”
Off the court, Bol took on a great responsibility to help his people in Sudan.
“It was 1991 that I first see Sudan on TV, when the government was killing my people," Bol said. "I said, ‘This cannot be right, I have to do something.’ I decided to become a fighter. I felt I made a lot of money and I should give it back to my people.”
Bol, who would set up a relief fund and raise money to take food and medicine to refugee camps, continued, “I went to the Pentagon myself, and told them, ‘We are being wiped out by Islamic fundamentalists.’ I try to educate them … nobody believe us, I feel like a fool.”
Chicago Bulls rookie Luol Deng, also originally from the Sudan, was influenced at an early age by Bol and what he calls his "big heart".
"I met him when I was seven years old in Egypt," Deng told an NBA Entertainment crew in an interview this season. "He came to Egypt and was teaching my brothers. I was too young at the time. He saw a bunch of guys playing basketball with no rules. He taught us the rules and how to play the game … the fundamentals."
Deng stressed that Bol's legacy is much more than basketball to those living in the Sudan. "When you say 'Manute' to us, we think about the stuff he did (to help the people) … we don't think about basketball until after. The things that he did that he didn't need to do. He wasn't going to be happy if he didn't help his people."
Deng is keenly aware of Bol’s contribution to his own path to the NBA.
"If Manute didn't have that love for his people and always trying to help others, I might not be here today."
“Manute Bol: Basketball Warrior” will re-air multiple times on NBA TV including Thursday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 2 at 5 p.m.; and Thursday, Jan. 6 at 10 p.m.