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The Late Manute Bol Remembered as a Giant in His Native Sudan

Sudan activist Joe Madison hopes more internationally recognized athletes would have the same spirit of giving that Manute Bol had

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James Butty

Sudanese-born National Basketball Association player Manute Bol, who passed away over the weekend, is being remembered as a kind giant who did a lot to help his country people.

The two-point-three meter tall Bol, one of the tallest players in the history of the NBA, died Saturday at age 47 at a Charlottesville, Virginia hospital.

The late Manute Bol
The late Manute Bol

Joe Madison, an African-American radio talk show host and former president of the Sudan Campaign Coalition, worked with the late Manute Bol on returning South Sudanese refugees to their homeland.

Madison said Bol was a tall giant in his native Sudan.

“The passing of Manute Bol was really sad news number one because he was so young and so active beyond basketball. Most people knew him as a 7 foot 7 basketball player but, in real life, he was a very tall giant in his own country,” he said.

Madison recalled his work with Bol as they both campaigned to return South Sudan refugees back to their villages in Sudan by demonstrating outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C.

Sudan refugees
Sudan refugees

Bol, who played for four NBA teams, including the Washington Bullets, now known as the Wizards, before his death reportedly led the NBA with 397 blocked shots, still the second-highest in NBA history.

Despite the fact that his highest salary in the NBA was a reported $1.5 million, the late Bol was able to help his people.

Madison hopes other more internationally recognized athletes will emulate Bol’s spirit of giving.

“I think it’s a lesson that quite honestly many athletes in this country learned from indigenous Africans who found wealth through their athletic abilities and returned to their countries or to their communities and wanted to make life better. And, I wish more would have the same spirit of giving that Manute Bol had. He was very much a man committed to a cause bigger than himself,” Madison said.

A report in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post newspaper said Bol remained devoted to his homeland and its customs.

The report recalled the time when Bol proposed to his Dinka wife and gave her family 80 cows as a gift.

The Washington Post report also said Bol once donated an estimated $3.5 million to a Dinka-led rebel group.

The report said Bol was almost destitute in 2001 and began appearing in promotional stunts, such as celebrity boxing matches, to raise funds for his homeland.

“He understood what a lot of athletes go through in this country, particularly when they seem to be extraordinary. Here was a man who people tried to commercialize. He refused to allow himself to be commercialized just for the sake of enriching his own lot. He did it just to save lives,” Madison said.

The cause of Bol's death was not made public, but he had been hospitalized several weeks before with severe kidney trouble. He fell ill while returning home from his native Sudan where he had gone to work on a school-building project, and to help fight election corruption.

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