Who are the greatest big men in NBA history? Some debate the merits of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Others think Moses Malone or Shaquille O’Neal are the best post men in league history. My point is that we can debate this all day and never really come to a conclusion. The other point is that if I were to ask you, “Can you name the only NBA player ever to kill a real, live lion with a spear?” could you come up with the answer? I don’t think you could. Only one player in NBA history has killed a lion other than Manute Bol. If that were the only interesting thing about Manute Bol, this would still be one hell of an interesting post to write.
Bol was born in the Sudan back in 1962. Bol’s father was a Dinka warrior chief and chose the name “Manute” which means “Special Blessing.” Bol stayed in the Sudan into the early 1980s. He was found there by a scout from Farleigh Dickinson University and then signed to play basketball at Cleveland State University. After taking some English classes in Cleveland, the team was placed on probation and Bol could not play for them. He made the move from Ohio to Connecticut and played at Bridgeport University, a DII school.
Manute lasted just one year at Bridgeport and was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the 2nd round of the 1985 draft, becoming the tallest player in NBA history. Bol was listed at 7’6” or 7’7” depeding on where you looked and his weight ranged from 200-220 pounds, making him pound-for-pound the leanest player in the history of organized athletics.
In his rookie year with the Bullets, Bol led the league with 397 blocks, a rookie record and one of the highest totals in league history. Bol also pulled off a difficult and rare feat during his rookie year but recording more blocks than points. Impressively, Bol actually kept this up for his entire career, retiring with 2,086 blocks and only 1,599 points.
Bol and his stringy frame bounced around the NBA for about a decade. He played for four teams and was especially effective during his first five years in the league. Around that time, injuries began to rear their ugly head and Bol struggled to stay healthy.
In 1988-89 while with the Golden State Warriors, Bol development a bit of an outside shot. He hit a career high 20 three-pointers that season, but he hit the shot with only 22% accuracy. In 1993, while with the 76ers, Bol had arguably his most memorable NBA game. The game pitted the Sixers against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were very good in 1993 and Barkley and Bol were former teammates with the Sixers. Bol hit only 10 three-point shots all that season, but six of them came in the second half of this game, highlight by Barkley visibly laughing as Bol shot three after three. What a freak show.
Bol finally left the NBA following the 1994-95 season at the age of only 32. He bounced around other leagues in the US and abroad for a few years before finally calling it quits. Bol is known for giving much of the money he earned back to his native Sudan. Bol has been and is involved in many charities that work for justice in Sudan and the rest of the continent.
Sadly, Manute fell on some hard times later in life and took part in things like appearing in minor league hockey games to sell a few tickets. He also fought William “The Fridge” Perry in a boxing match. Ugh.
Manute was in a car accident a few years back and suffered injuries that force him to now walk with a cane.