Manute Bol: The Sudanese Refugee And NBA’s Tallest Player


Manute Bol was born in 1961, in Sudan and died of kidney failure in Charlottesville, Virginia at the age of 47, in 2010. He hails from the Dinka tribe in the present day South Sudan. His father named him “Manute” which meant “special blessing”. Manute is a social observer, political activist, NBA’s star and philanthropist. Manute was one of the tallest ever in the history of the NBA – National Basketball Association. He was 7 ft 7 (2.31 m) tall.

Manute comes from Turalei, a region that breeds exceptionally tall people in the world. 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) basketball player Ring Ayuel also comes from the same place.

“My mother was 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), my father 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and my sister is 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)”, he said. “And my great-grandfather was even taller- 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m).”- Manute Bol

As a growing child, he tended his family’s livestock. On one occasion, he bravely killed a lion that attacked their animals. At age 15, he had already started playing basketball. Manute however attempted playing soccer but his height was an impediment for the sport. Then he switched over to basketball which was more appropriate considering his height.

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On arriving the United States, he joined the NBA. As sponsored by the Washington bullets, he was coached and trained by Frank Costello from the University of Maryland. He also had to learn how to read and write English to ease communication. He played from 1985-1996. Within that period he played for such clubs as the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Washington Bullets, Florida Beach Dogs, Rhode Island Gulls, among others.

In his 3 seasons with the Washington Bullets (1985 – 1988), he featured in 80 games with an astounding 5.0 blocks per game. He was more famous for his shot-blocking talents and skills. Manute ranks 15th on the career blocks list. By the end of his career the Sudanese-American basketball player had appeared in 624 games over 10 seasons in which he achieved a total of 1,599 points, 2,647 rebounds, and 2,086 blocks.

Manute Bol

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Aside his career, Bol was a philanthropist and political activist. He contributed to the welfare of Sudanese communities affected by war. On the condition of becoming a Muslim, he shunned the offer to become a Sudanese minister. Manute Bol also pioneered the course of grassroots reconciliation in South Sudan. He participated in the April 2006 Sudan Freedom Walk in the United States.

Under his Ring True Foundation, Bol continued to render financial support to Sudanese refugees. It is reported that he exhausted most of his earnings from the NBA on a tune of $3.5 million to philanthropic causes in Sudan. His appearance at games and functions attracted large numbers of people.

He was a Brand Ambassador for Ethiopian Airlines. With the passion for a positive change in the world around him, the Sudanese refugee who neither read nor wrote became an ardent reader and social observer.

Manute Bol made a huge impact in charity works and his career that during his memorial service in the United States, dignitaries such as Senators and ambassadors from Sudan and the United States were in attendance. He had 10 children, 2 of whom have become brilliant basket ball players.

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