By Pete Deluca
This weekend marked the passing of one of basketball’s most iconic and definitely tallest figures to ever play the game - Manute Bol.
Before Michael Jordan’s championship run, I remember the only reason I was interested in the NBA was because of Bol. Standing 7-foot-7-inches tall, he was like nothing the sports world had ever seen. He looked like a monster, and in a league full of giants everyone was looking up at him. As one of the most recognizable players of his era, he drew a crowd everywhere he went and packed stadiums throughout his career.
His defensive stats were unreal – more so considering that he did not even touch a basketball until he was 16 years old. After being drafted in 1985, Bol went on to set the record for most blocks in a rookie season, which included league records for shots blocked in a half (11) and in a quarter (8). He finished his 10-year NBA career second in career blocks-per-game (a mark that still stands today) and is the only player in league history with more blocked shots (2,086) than points (1,599).
Fans flocked to arenas to see Bol and marveled at his height and shot blocking ability. However, he was much more than a sideshow – he was the embodiment of the “American Dream.” Bol rose from a small tribe in a primitive section of Sudan to a mainstream figure of American pop culture. He was thrown right into the lime-light and emerged as an NBA legend.
But it was his actions off the court that made him a true superstar. Bol always kept his war-ravaged home country in mind and worked tirelessly with nonprofit organizations to improve Sudan throughout his career. He started the Ring True Foundation, which raised over $3 million for the Sudanese refugee camps he frequently visited. In retirement, he assembled schools across Sudan to educate Muslim and Christian students under one roof and worked with local politicians to promote fair and safe elections.
Bol passed away in Virginia on Saturday, June 19 from kidney problems and a rare skin condition. He proved himself as force both on and off the court. He was a hero, a humanitarian, and a giant – in both height and heart.
Pete Deluca is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at email@example.com.