Manute Bol: 15 Interesting Facts About The Sudanese Basketball Hall Of Famer


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Pro basketball player Manute Bol was one of the tallest players in NBA history and a political activist in Africa. He was born in Sudan in 1962 in the Dinka tribe in Sudan where he lived for most of his childhood and teenage years. In Sudan, he tended cattle for his family as a young boy and there is a popular story that he often used to relate during interviews about how he had once killed a lion with a handmade spear!. Bol was 7 ft 7 in tall, which was surprisingly not unusual for where he came from! (both his dad and sister were 6 feet 8 inches tall). We deep dive in further with these 15 incredible facts: (Manute Bol height, age, death, wife, all included!) 

Manute Bol: 15 Amazing Facts and FAQs

1. He comes from a wealthy family:

He is a descendent of Dinka and the Nilotic nobility—his great-great-grandfather, Bol Nyuol, was a chief of the Tuie Dinka of northwest Sudan. His grandfather too became a wealthy chief who had around 40 wives and 80 children. Bol’s father was the first who didn’t inherit the same. 

2. He was the tallest player in the history of the National Basketball Association:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

The Dinkas are among Africa’s tallest people, but even then, Manute Bol was something else! 

At just under 7’ 7”, Manute Bol towered over almost everyone, drawing stares wherever he went. The stately Bol had learned to handle the attention, though—just as he’d learned to speak English and block his opponents’ shots on the basketball court. 

Tracing back his genes to his ethnic group, the Dinka and the Nilotic people are among the tallest populations in the world. 

Bol’s native, Turalei, breeds exceptionally tall people, including 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) basketball player Ring Ayuel. He once said: 

“I was born in a village, where you cannot measure yourself, I learned I was 7 foot 7 in 1979, when I was grown. I was about 18 or 19.

3. Bol was also the only player in the NBA to have killed a lion with a spear and to have paid 80 cows for his first wife:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

Bol, a native of Sudan and member of the Dinka tribe, left his troubled homeland to play basketball in the United States.  He was a major source of support for his family members who were stranded in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. 

His early education was entirely practical, concerning only the care and sale of cows; Bol never learned to read or write his native tongue. But he was educated in every aspect of animal husbandry necessary to ensure the health of his cows, including how to kill a sleeping lion with a spear before it could harm his herd.

As cows were sacred to his homeland, they are traded as dowry or payment so Bol married a Dinka woman for whom he paid eighty cows. Manute and Atong Bol (his first wife) have two children. 

4. He was a young rebel in Sudan:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

A young Manute Bol enjoyed a number of privileges as the descendent of a chief, but he also rebelled against some of the Dinka customs, especially the manhood rites that all teenage boys must undergo. Bol used to run away rather than attend the ritual scarring of his face and— worse—the removal of six of his teeth. 

5. On the basketball court he had never quite equalled his peers:

Manute Bol

Although he had gained in strength and poise over the years, he was still working at a disadvantage; Bol began playing basketball late and has never developed instinctive reactions to the game’s flow. He was also hampered by three clawed fingers on his right hand, a birth defect. Nevertheless, the Sudanese American’s fantastic height and grim determination had made him a potent force in the NBA. The athlete played first for the Bullets, then the Golden State Warriors, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

6. In Sudan, he was forced to sit and drink milk for months:

As a teen, the athlete was also forced to attend “milk camp”. The purpose? To identify which young man could gain the most weight over four months. “From May to August, or September, you’re not doing nothing, you’re just sitting there drinking milk,” Bol told the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

“You just sit there and sleep and drink milk. You take 10 cows. One gallon of milk is not enough. I can drink three gallons of milk a day. Some people in the camps weigh almost 400 pounds.” What weight Bol gained at milk camp was just as quickly lost again; he grew taller and taller, but remained lean as a stick. 

7. Bol was proud of his heritage and became a humanitarian in his native country, but he is also proud of the success he has achieved in the United States:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

Manute Bol told the San Jose Mercury News: “God gave me [this] height. He gave me a chance to play in the NBA. I have a good life. I’m going to raise my kids to have the good life. I’m really happy with it.”

8. In the Dinka language, Manute’s name means “special blessing”:

Manute Bol was given that name because his mother had miscarried twins before he was born. Despite an actual birth certificate to document the fact, Bol says he was born on October 16, 1963, near the Dinka village of Turalei. 

9. A cousin suggested Basketball, so he walked 3 days to find a team:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

In 1978, during a lull in the almost constant civil war that has engulfed Sudan, a national politician visited Bol’s village. Bol posed for a picture with the official, and that photograph came to the attention of Nyuol Makwag Bol, a cousin in Khartoum. 

The cousin suggested that Bol take up basketball. Bol walked three days from his village to join his first team.

The nearest town with a team was Wau, a city of some 80,000 residents. Manute journeyed to Wau and began to play for the police team. Not surprisingly his father objected, saying that basketball was “not good work for a Dinka,” but Bol was determined to carve his own path. 

“I started playing basketball more and more,”he told the Washington Post “I went on the court to shoot, dribble, and then lay-ups, whatever. And then my cousin … told me, ’Why don’t you try dunk?’ And then I tried. I took one dribble and then I went up to dunk the ball. When I came down I hurt my teeth in the net.”

10. Even his fear of dental distress while dunking did not deter Manute Bol because he wanted out of Sudan:

In 1979 he accompanied his cousin in Khartoum and won a position on the city’s Catholic Club team. Khartoum, however, was not a safe place for Bol; its largely Arab population—much like that of northern Sudan— harbors an intense hatred of blacks. 

“I did fight a lot in Khartoum,” Bol said. “I was bad. I don’t take anything. Sometimes I can say we Dinkas are crazy. That is what I can say. We don’t give up. In the United States they call black people nigger, you know, that thing. In my country, the Moslem people call us the abid (Arabic for slave). Really, I don’t like. If they say it to somebody, not even me, I fight them.” Bol’s cousin had to counsel him to save his aggression for the basketball court, where he was still clumsy and slow-footed.

For 3 years, Bol played basketball in Khartoum under the Catholic Club and for the military team. While living in the capital he fell in love with his first Dinka girl. His father disapproved of the match, however, and the girl’s father demanded a large payment for her. Eventually the marriage negotiations broke down for the athlete and the girl married another man. “I was hurt really. It bust me up,” Bol told the Washington Post. The breakup—and hostile conditions in Khartoum—made Bol willing to leave Sudan behind. Since his departure he has returned only once, for a brief visit.

11. How Manute Bol found his ticket to the United States:

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

Don Feeley, a coach from Fairleigh Dickinson University, flew to meet Boi in Khartoum and convinced him to come to the United States. Bol was drafted by the San Diego Clippers, but when Clipper scouts saw a gangly, 180-pound Bol they decided he needed some time with a college team. 

Unable to read or write English, Kevin Mackey of Cleveland State University invited Bol to Cleveland, where the young African took English classes at Case Western Reserve. Although Bol never played for Cleveland State—or even practiced with the team— his presence in the city was viewed as a violation of NCAA rules. 

Shuffled from Cleaveland to Washington, finally he could play: 

Manute Bol
Manute Bol

He was a student at Bridgeport and for the first time began playing with an American team. There he averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.5 blocked shots per game. After one season with Bridgeport he was signed by the United States Basketball League’s Rhode Island Gulls. 

NBA scouts attended Bol’s games, but opinion was mixed on the tall, skinny player; some found him clumsy and hesitant on the court, while others were awed by his height and blocking ability. In 1985 the Washington Bullets decided to take a chance. 

12. eluctant to use Manute Bol at first, later he was the face of fried chicken:

They were skeptical but when center Jeff Ruland was sidelined by injuries in 1986, Bol got the job. He quickly became a factor on defense, just missing the record for most blocked shots in the history of the NBA—he had 397 for the season—and was runner-up for defensive player of the year. Almost overnight Bol found himself a star in this new country where he had to learn English from scratch. Product endorsement of fried chicken and athletic gear started coming in and he was credited with increasing attendance at Bullets away games in every American city. 

13. Bol intended to begin his career in football first:

Manute got refused by every team he showed up to and found more success with basketball. 

14. Final days of basketball: 

In 1995, Milwaukee Bucks suspended the contract to Manute without actually debuting. His arthritis was beginning to be a problem, and he could not keep up with the physical demands of competition. After playing in Uganda and Qatar, he retired from the game ultimately.

15. Death: 

Manute Bol died on 19-06-2010 in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. He died of Kidney Failure at age of 47.

During his funeral, Bol was also given tributes by former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Sudan’s Ambassador to the United States Akec Khoc Acieu, and vice president of the National Basketball Players Association Rory Sparrow.

Sparrow called Bol “a giant off the court” who should be remembered for humanitarian work and his basketball career.

Brownback recalled, “He literally gave his life for his people. He went over [to Sudan], he was sick. He stayed longer than he should have. He probably contracted this ailment that took his life while in Sudan, and he didn’t have to do that. He was an NBA basketball player. He could have stayed here and had an easy life. I’ve never seen anybody use his celebrity status more nor give his life more completely to a group of people than Manute Bol did. It makes me look at efforts that I do as not enough.”

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Manute Bol dead?

Born: October 16th, 1962

Died:  June 19th, 2010

Manute Bol height in feet? 

He towered over his teammates at 7′ 7″ at 7 feet, 7 inches.

What team did Manute Bol play for?

This is Manute Bol’s career history, he played for the following teams:

1985    Rhode Island Gulls

1985–1988    Washington Bullets

1988–1990    Golden State Warriors

1990–1993    Philadelphia 76ers

1993–1994    Miami Heat

1994    Washington Bullets

1994    Philadelphia 76ers

1994–1995    Golden State Warriors

1995–1996    Florida Beach Dogs

1996–1997    Fulgor Libertas Forlì

The professional basketball player was drafted in 1985—in the second round by Washington Bullets; traded to Golden State Warriors, 1988; traded to Philadelphia 76ers, 1990.

What is Manute Bol net worth?

Manute Bol Net Worth: The Sudanese basketball player and political activist had a net worth of $7 million. 

In July 2004, the Sudanese-American was seriously injured in a car accident in Colchester, Connecticut; he was ejected from a taxi that hit a guardrail and overturned, resulting in a broken neck. The driver was under the influence, with a suspended license. Because his fortunes were mostly donated to Sudan, he was financially ruined because he had no health insurance. 

While he used a lot of his money for humanitarian efforts in his best years, he signed million-dollar contracts, both with his teams and with sponsors (Nike, Kodak and Toyota). With his cheerful and extroverted character, he achieved great popularity. 

He spent the money on luxury cars (adapted for his height). He had bought houses in Egypt, Maryland and Khartoum (the capital of Sudan).

How tall is Manute Bol’s wife?

Bol married two Dinka women. 

Bol had six children with his first wife, Along, and four with his second wife, Ajok. His tribe’s people are amongst the tallest populations of the world and his family members were all exceptionally tall. His father was 6 ft 8 in, his mother was 6 ft 10 in and his great grandfather was 7 ft 10 in tall.

How old was Manute Bol when he died?

He was only 47 when he died. 

Is Manute Bol a Hall of Famer?

Yes, Manute Bol was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Class of 2010 under the University of Bridgeport Athletics. 

Is Bol Bol Manute Bol’s son?

Bol’s second son Bol Bol (born November 16, 1999), played for the Oregon Ducks in 2018–19. Following his father’s footsteps, he also played basketball and was declared for the 2019 NBA draft and was taken 44th overall by the Miami Heat. He was subsequently traded to the Denver Nuggets.


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