Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Being 7' 6" certainly takes something off your life expectancy.  Being born a Dinka tribesman in the Sudan, where the life expectancy of males is only 51.5 years, doesn't give you a great start.  But when you have killed a lion with your spear while a teenager, maybe you're the guy who beats the odds.  Unfortunately, Manute Bol didn't.  He died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.  He was 47.

The sports world first came across Manute in 1984 when he played his college basketball at the University of Bridgeport, a Division II school in Connecticut.  He was a more spectacle than star, but his sheer height and shot blocking ability were enough to have the Washington Bullets draft him in the second round of the NBA draft in 1985.  In 1987 he was paired with 5' 3" Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player in the league, adding to the carnival appeal.  Woody Allen once joked that Bol was so skinny, that to save on travel expenses his team would fax him from city to city.

But Manute proved to be more than just a ticket-selling curiosity.  He was a defensive force.  He set the rookie shot-blocking record and during his career tied the record for blocks in a half (eleven) and in a quarter (eight).  He remains first in career blocks per 48 minutes and second in career blocks per game while playing less than 19 minutes on average.

On the other end of the floor his skinny frame did keep him from developing much of an offensive game.  He finished his career with more rebounds and blocks than he did points.  He did however, take great joy in posting up beyond the three point line in a blowout and firing away, much to the crowd's delight.

Manute was well-liked by teammates and etymologists have documented that the expression "My bad" most likely started with Bol.  In trying to apologize to teammates for a mistake on the court Bol, who initially did not have a great command of the English language, rather than saying "My fault," would mistakenly say "My bad."

After basketball Manute had his share of troubles.  He was detained in Sudan for a time during the civil war, broke his neck in a car accident in Connecticut in 2004 and he had various physical difficulties as he aged.  But, he was revered in the Sudan and admired in the U.S. for all his work with charitable causes.  He played upon his popularity to raise money for humanitarian purposes in his war-torn country.  He engaged in a celebrity boxing match with William "The Refrigerator" Perry, signed a one-day contract with a minor league ice hockey team and donned jockey silks all to raise money for children in Sudan.

Unfortunately having kidney dialysis treatment in rural Sudan also reduces your life expectancy.  Bol reacted badly to the drugs involved and was hospitalized after returning to the U.S.  He died from kidney trouble and a rare skin disease.  In this case it's not "My bad," it's just too bad.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Nice touch for the big fella